Sundance 2009 Review: Max Mayer's Adam
by Alex Billington
January 22, 2009
I thought it couldn't get any better than 500 Days of Summer here at Sundance. I loved that film so much, that hardly anything could even compare to it. But then I saw Adam, a wonderfully charming and beautiful story about falling in love. While it doesn't necessarily reach the same heights as 500 Days, it's the next best thing, and easily one of my very favorite films from the fest. Adam begins by showing us the stars in the sky while Rose Byrne explains in a voice over that she thought she knew everything about love, but it wasn't until she met Adam (Hugh Dancy) that she realized she had so much more to learn. As did I.
Adam suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, that primarily affects his social skills. He is a fairly normal person, perhaps actually quite brilliant, who perceives every statement as it is, meaning he doesn't understand jokes and metaphors. He has no social filter and is unable to understand what people are thinking. As unfortunate as this is, it makes Adam such a lovable character, because he is trying so hard to be accepted, and is quirky in the way he acts. Beth (Byrne) moves in to the apartment above him in New York City and the two meet and begin to spend some time together, albeit in initially awkward ways.
The story is actually a lot more complex than that. The film starts just after Adam's father has passed away and we soon see that Adam, who's working as an electrical engineer at a toy company, is struggling to keep things together living by himself. Beth, on the other hand, moves in alone into the apartment above him, and encounters her own emotional problems when her dad is accused of fraud. There is so much that makes this such an extraordinary film, but at the very base, it's this endearing love story that establishes the rigorous frame for the remainder of the film to be built around. From there, it just takes off.
In addition to Max Mayer's exquisite directing and Christopher Lennertz' enchanting score, the reason why this was such a phenomenal film is due to not one, but two, important people -- Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne. These two have delivered some of the most affecting performances I've seen in the last year. Dancy unquestionably becomes the quirky character, both innocent and likable, while Byrne made me melt in every last scene. The chemistry these two have, even when not together, helped greatly to bring to life this exceptional story. Whether you are in love or not, Adam proves there is still so much more to discover.
Sundance Rating: 9 out of 10