Boy meets girl, the two become romantically involved, and deal with the light-hearted ups and downs of their relationship. Sounds like your average romantic comedy, right? Wrong. The difference in Adam is that Adam suffers from Asperger Syndrome; a high-functioning form of autism. All romantic comedies involve miscommunication, conflict, and touching moments. Throw Asperger’s into the mix and you emphasize the importance of the most minute keys to a functional relationship. At this point you may start thinking you are in for 99 minutes of sappy heart-string tugging. Instead, writer/director Max Mayer gives us an indie, quirky story about two people learning to love and learning about themselves in the process.
Adam (Hugh Dancy) is a 29 year old man living in New York. He and his father lived together in a large apartment, but since his father’s death, he has been living there alone. Beth (Rose Byrne) is an upper-middle class New Yorker who just moved in to Adam’s building thanks to her new job as an elementary school teacher. Immediately there is chemistry between them.
People with this syndrome suffer from a social disconnection; an inability to sense what other people are thinking or feeling. This inability makes “aspies” brutally honest, have high social anxiety, and finding comfort in familiarity. From the start as we see that Adam has a freezer full of identical macaroni dinners and a very strict life of habit. When Beth asks him to a party with some friends of hers, Mayer gives us an intimate look into the disease as we see Adam having a nervous break down waiting for her to pick him up. When Beth knocks on his door to pick him up, he wrestles with himself; torn between desperately wanting to go and the limitations of his disease.
Against the advice of friends and family, they become boyfriend and girlfriend. The problems they have in their relationship are much different then the usual gimmicks we see in most romantic comedies. Beth is not only a lover, but a teacher and a caretaker. The sexual relationship definitely brings up some controversial feelings. On one hand, just because Adam has a mental disorder doesn’t mean that he can’t do things that other 29 year old men can, but on the other hand, since Beth is the instigator, is she taking advantage of him, considering he has no concept of the emotions and feelings that are attached with the act?
Hugh Dancy gives an award-worthy performance, and proves his versatility through his portrayal of all the characteristics of Asperger Syndrome. He sucks you in with his mannerisms and dialog so that you join in Adam’s fears, laughter, and pain. Peter Gallagher is also very good as Beth’s father, but I am truly tired of seeing him typecast as the suave father/businessman with tricks up his sleeve.
Overall, Adam is a breath of fresh air in a fairly unoriginal genre. Only once toward the end of the movie was there a typical and predictable rom-com scene. It just felt like Mayer may have been rushed, causing the plot to suffer slightly, but in the end, we are given a surprising and satisfying close to the story. Take a focus on a disorder that affects three out of 1,000 people and couple that with a stellar performance by Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne, and you get a film that you can appreciate and savor without it leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Though it will more than likely be overshadowed by movies like (500) Days of Summer, Adam should definitely make your list of movies to see this year.
I give Adam 4 identical boxes of frozen macaroni out of 5.
by Rachael Edwards