PLOT: Adam has a very specific way of living. He has his clothes lined out and he eats the same meal all the time. He follows a very specific pattern which is threatened after the death of his father. Specifically, Adam has Aspergers Syndrome, a form of high functioning autism that makes his ability to connect with others nearly impossible. And once a new neighbor named Beth arrives, she begins to see Adam as someone unique and possibly even attractive. As the two continue to see each other, a romance begins, yet one that is a little more difficult than your average rom-com.
Romantic comedies are like any other genre. There is a formula to follow and everything that follows fits exactly where it should. Yes, they can be a little more challenging or sometimes as far from it as you can get, but they generally have the same recipe. With ADAM, the specific guidelines are followed pretty closely as a woman falls in love with an unusual man, but somehow the two grow to love each other. Yet what makes ADAM unique is the fact that the title character has Aspergers Syndrome. It is a form of autism that can leave those diagnosed severely troubled when it comes to social situations, among other issues that come with the diagnosis. There are no two people with Aspergers that are alike, and therefore, they are very unique in whatever else comes with the disorder. With Adam (Hugh Dancy), he has an obsessive love for the universe and all the stars and planets that light up the nighttime sky. He eats the same meal and wears the same type of outfit, and with his fathers help, he has managed to find a job where he helps design toys.
This is an absolutely unlikely romantic lead as he is scarcely able to understand society, and why what they say is almost always different than what they mean. Up until now, he always had his father to take care of him, but after his fathers death, he is left alone. That is, until a new girl moves into the building and shows interest in her quirky neighbor. The girl, Beth Buchwald (Rose Byrne) finds Adams behavior a bit odd, yet still seems to notice a sweet natured human being underneath it all. What is utterly refreshing is that most films use the special needs character as either a joke or a way to grab the audiences sympathy, Adam uses it to make a surprisingly touching love story. Both he and Beth are given some very human dilemmas as they try to co-exist with each other. While the young man can barely give you a hello without really thinking about it, he can surely tell you everything you need to know (and much more) about the universe. And Beth, a teacher who has a patient and nurturing soul is both intrigued by him and possibly even in love with him. But sometimes, she is completely in the dark about who he is.
The autism aspect creates a very unexpected take on this type of film. In fact, the irony is that the love story itself is almost the antagonist here. A relationship should be something that each one involved contributes to, yet Adam has trouble showing empathy and really making the effort. Yet it is very clear, thanks to a wonderful performance by Dancy, that he really loves this strong and beautiful woman. While it clearly is taxing for the two to connect, the moments where they do are so simple and sweet without feeling overly sentimental. And thanks to Dancy and Byrne, both Adam and Beth are far more real and relatable than youd expect. The best moments of the film really has to be any time the two of them are together. Who wouldve ever thought two people watching a couple of animals in Central Park would be such a romantic and absolutely smile inducing moment. In fact, I felt much more for these two than most movies of this ilk.
Now, Adam is not a perfect film by all means. The biggest problem I had is a sad one indeed. As much as I was thrilled to see Amy Irving on the back on the big screen as Beths mother, I felt that the SAY ANYTHING relationship between Beth and her parents was unnecessary and took a little bit of the heart away for my liking. Her father played by Peter Gallagher is the guy who may or may not be doing something illegal in the company he works for, but he also feels that Adam is certainly no match for his lovely daughter. This was so similar to the Ione Skye and John Mahoney, father/daughter relationship that it just felt a little bit like déjà vu. After all, this is Adams story and the focus needed to remain on him and the challenge he and Beth faced trying to keep a blossoming romance. Again, that really is the life blood that flows within the film. It is touching and sincere and it may even frustrate audiences at the difficulty of these two just being together.
I found a lot to like in Adam. While the film does have a few flaws with where the story goes, it is a brave new world to see a love story that presents a bigger challenge then infidelity or selfishness or whatever. There is a warm and charming tone that is brought to life by writer/director Max Mayer, but the key really lies with the strong and beautiful performances. Add to that a very sweet and fitting collection of songs that are used incredibly well throughout the film. They are eclectic and sweet, yet not overtly so, in fact, the soundtrack is much like the quirky romance it inhabits, just plain warm and charismatic.
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