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
Reader Feedback - 16 Comments
Sounds interesting. Make sure to post a trailer as soon as you get it.
Kassandra on Jan 22, 2009
Agree with #1. Sounds very interesting 🙂
max on Jan 22, 2009
Rose Byrne is one of my favourite actresses! Can't wait to see this one!
Janika on Jan 22, 2009
I absolutely love Hugh Dancy and can't wait to see how he creates his character Adam to life. I think Rose Byrne is a great choice to play opposite him. I'll wait, but can't wait to see this movie. I wish it the best. I would love to see a trailer of this film.
athena on Jan 22, 2009
Agree about the trailer. I would love to see if the lead actor pulls off a good Asperger's Syndrome. The guy on Boston Legal did a GREAT job with that. Post the trailer whenever you get it!
Amani on Jan 22, 2009
I greatly enjoyed Adam specially because of the score/soundtrack (which was amazing). It was a good movie until the ending which in my opinion made the movie much better. I just saw the premiere of In the loop, and if you haven't already you should definitely check that out. Its the best comedy in the fest. Closely following 2nd is humpday but this is just the finest form of political satire that you can get.
Aequitas on Jan 22, 2009
Please post a trailer! I live in Salt Lake but I'm not able to see all of these films coming out, but i've started a list of ones i want to see but it's hard to know without getting a taste of what they're like.
Arp on Jan 23, 2009
Rose Byrne is amazing in DAMAGES. Very excited for this one.
Ryan on Jan 23, 2009
Thank you Mr. Mayer, I can't wait to see this movie. My husband has Asperger's as do our two daughters. And it is hard to make people understand what Asperger's is like. I'm sure that many families will be looking forward to you movie.
Nancy M. on Jan 24, 2009
I cannot wait to see this film!
fellow aspergian, Hannah on Jul 1, 2009
When we went to see the movie, there was a trailer for a new movie called "Adam," about a wierd guy with Asperger's. My son has Asperger's and I could NOT believe how they portrayed this guy. My son asked me "Mom, am I like that??" I can't believe that a movie would be made that makes fun of people and paints a whole group as the same. There are degrees of autism and the social struggles are definitely not funny.
Terri Blackwelder on Aug 9, 2009
Thankyou for this movie. Can't wait to see it. My youngest son has Aspergers and Adam just sounds like him. Wow!
Cathy Welch on Aug 20, 2009
This sounds like a pretty good movie. This is the first I've heard of it but the comments make it out to be a good movie that is going low under the radar.
Golden rule on Sep 14, 2009
It should be an interesting story that appeals to families and high school kids alike.
Insurance medical on Sep 14, 2009
Adam is a movie that realistically portrays an adult with ASD that refreshingly focuses on his abilities, rather than his disabilities. It portrayed various characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorders, more specifically, Asperger’s Syndrome. The movie first depicts the main character having common characteristics of ASD, such as rigidity and ritualistic behavior with his stock of macaroni and cheese, frozen broccoli boxes and cereal in his kitchen. His resistance to change is apparent when his neighbor, Beth, says that she will come by his apartment at 8pm to see if he wants to go out. He is uncomfortable in socially overwhelming situations, but finds the courage to comply. Even though she came by, she was fifteen minutes she was late. During that time Adam was agonizing over this change in schedule and was extremely uncomfortable with his inability to cope with the situation. He also exhibited restricted behavior with his unusually strong interest in astronomy. He often shares an incredible amount of information with people, to which people are both amazed and uncomfortable when in conversation with him. Adam, who seemingly has difficulty communicating and socializing with others, is aware of his condition and the challenges he faces. He admits that he finds it hard to “know what people are thinking” especially when they “mean something different from what they’re actually saying.” For example, when Beth is upset because of her father’s legal issues, he says, “I can see that you’re upset but I don’t know what to do.” Likewise, he has impairments with nonverbal social cues such as eye contact and facial expressions, as well as an understanding sarcasm and jokes, often interpreting words in their literal sense. He also displays a lack of emotions and ability deal with emotional situations. Adam seems unfazed by his father’s death and Beth’s compassion for it. Conscious of his abilities and disabilities, Adam is receptive when he realizes his condition impedes his ability to socialize appropriately. He willingly tries to cope with uncomfortable situations, such as going out to dinner and meeting Beth’s friends and family. Beth, and his family friend, Harlan, use strategies to help Adam. Beth often offers nonverbal, physical prompts whenever Adam is inclined to go on and on about his knowledge of astronomy past the listener’s interest, to which he is receptive. Also, when in a meeting with a lawyer about his father’s will, he becomes extremely uncomfortable with all the changes to his life that is to come. Harlan helps him cope with his tantrumming behavior by telling him to cross his arms around his chest to help him calm down. Also, knowing he will find interviewing for jobs an extreme area of difficulty, Beth helps him practice social skills that are seemingly inherent to most people by role playing actions such as being “involved,” maintaining eye contact (look at the interviewer’s forehead), and being sure to express your strengths. This movie refreshingly portrays an honest, sentimental view of a young adult dealing with his Asperger’s Syndrome. Learning how children cope with the conditions of their disability in a learning environment, this movie brought another perspective. Children with ASD grow up to become adults with ASD, and this movie brought awareness of how an adult deals with having Asperger’s in a working environment and developing age appropriate relationships. He used his strong fixation to find a dream job as an engineer for satellite guidance systems. Having watched this movie with a friend who is unfamiliar with ASD, its realistic and empathetic approach to developing the characters generated an understanding and appreciation of the strengths and challenges of a person with Asperger’s may have, while dissolving stereotypes that many people hold. Not only did it develop a sympathetic character that sees Adam for the person he is, but it portrayed a character with a disability who is a strong and self-sufficient, and aware and dealing with the fact that he is different than most people.
Tracy on Dec 16, 2010
I take issue with your review in which you say Adam "suffers" from Asperger's syndrome and that he is at times a "normal person." Both are quite disrespectful terms to use and further stigmatization of those with disabilities.
Kate on Dec 10, 2011
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