Cinema Signal:

Ewan McGregor:
An Unauthorized Biography

Young Adam
The book
by Alexander Trocchi

. "Young Adam"

There are some men who are irresistible to women. Portraying such a stud here is the star of "Moulin Rouge" and "Big Fish"... none less than Ewan McGregor, a Scot who rules the boudoir and fantasies of any female he casts his penetrating eyes upon. In this Glasgow framework where the tonality is far from the bright hues of movies past, he's got the moves and the looks to make it work in a character study that is bleak and noirish from the grey clouds to the sea floor. Even without an actual murder.

Under the opening titles, a woman floats on the surface of the Glasgow harbor, dead, drowned. Joe Taylor (McGregor), a hand on a barge that carries goods between Edinburgh and Glasgow along the Scottish canals, is the first to spot her. He and his boss Les Gault (Peter Mullan) fish the body onto the pier and call the authorities. The irony of this discovery is not apparent until we learn in a flashback not only what his relationship is to the dead woman, but that he's the only person who knows the circumstances of her untimely end.

Back at the barge, Les' wife Ella (Tilda Swinton) makes dinner for the men and her young son Jim (Jack McElhone). Joe's lustful eye works on sex-starved Ella in its usual way and, before long we have him apologizing to Les and offering to collect his things and take off. But it's Les who leaves because it's Ella's barge. As this is going on, flashbacks to his life with Cathie (Emily Mortimer) reveal their first meeting and the development of a relationship that goes bad only when she starts talking about being pregnant and getting hitched.

With husband Les out of the way, the new man of the barge enjoys an unimpeded love fest with Ella until she invites her sister for a wee visit. Joe the opportunist is no more capable of resisting the new female on the scene's invitation for a little carnal action than he can stop breathing. Ella isn't deceived for a second and Joe is off the boat and out of a job, just as the news hits that dead Cathie's only known boyfriend is being accused of murdering her. Joe is held in the grip of moral tension as he attends the trial and wrestles with the possible consequences of coming forward as a witness in order to spare the innocent man.

His final decision is as bleak and dark as the watery canals, but no more spiritless than the misguided justice that an inept legal system makes possible, leaving us with moral emptiness and the weight of purposelessness.

The heavy web of adultery and lust is based on the novel by Scottish beat-poet Alexander Trocchi and adapted by writer-director David Mackenzie to seize us in the grip of an anti-hero who is fascinating enough to compel our interest, if not sympathies. While he takes on a role antithetical to his recent hits, he demonstrates his bulletproof appeal in a spectrum of character complexity, from soft and musical to calmly opportunistic.

Tilda Swinton meets the challenge in her own intense and mysteriously motivated way, always finding dimensions of character beyond the page. Emily Mortimer, the most normal of the lot, provides the story its sunniest light even though her obsession is another dense mental note. Giles Nuttgens' photography provides the right mood for the surfaces and subsurfaces of the gloomy psychology underlying a provocative story. It's a downer, but a mature, evocative one.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

The Soundtrack Album


Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
Very well written
Site rating: 10

hello i love the film young adam and ewan mcgregor is such a wonderful actor he just has such talent those eyes of his move me. and the way he treats woman in the film scare me quite a bit . i got the book and i loved it it was the sexest book i ever read i read it over and over again. so anybody that veiws the movie hopefuly nobody thinks ewan's charactar is a total jerk even though we are all intitled to our own think that he is ewans charactar is a very lonley sad man and just did a wrong thing so anyway's the movie is amazing and i loved it .

                                                           ~~ annabelle 

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