Projections - Movie Reviews

Young Adam

Young Adam
Starring Ewan McGregor, Emily Mortimer, Peter Mullan, Tilda Swinton

_Alexander Trocchi’s semi-autobiographical novel is adapted into a dark, ambitious drama by English director David Mackenzie. The source of the Scottish beat poet/writer has Ewan MacGregor (Down With Love) as the centerpiece of what becomes explicit and somewhat unsettling, earning the dreaded NC-17 rating.

The gloomy gorgeous lensing and plot recalls the more affecting film The Deep End that starred Tilda Swinton and she’s the dour wife, Ella of a talkative barge master, Les, played by Peter Mullan, director of The Magdalene Sisters. Les and Ella are the employers of MacGregor’s Joe, as the canal job site goes from Glasgow and Edinburgh while Mackenzie sets the unhurried action there in the 1950's. Jack McElhone is Les and Ella’s young son, Jim.

Very early, Les and Joe will reel in a dead body from the canal in the Clyde river that triggers something in Joe that MacGregor embraces in a character that becomes quite impulsive through desire and motivations that aren’t clear. This discovery brings out flashbacks of romance with Cathie, played bravely by Emily Mortimer of Love and Amazing, as Joe reminds himself of the kind of life he could have had.

Ella leaves her sterile marriage for the sexual machinations of Joe, acted by MacGregor with more pathetic charm than anticipated. Mackenzie feels at home in fairly long silent stretches that amplify a radical, introspective quality to Young Adam. The brash exploitative nature of Joe will go beyond the frustrated Ella, endowed with austere poise by Swinton.

David Byrne composes a score attuned to the revelations occurring as one finds out what lies beneath the surface of things. The cast, including Therese Bradley in a rapacious supporting role, knows how to find the subtle rhythms of what is adult and quite provocative. MacGregor arguably has as raw and scary a presence than ever before on screen, with Swinton and Mortimer notably feeding off his generosity. Yet, if Young Adam proves too underwhelming when it comes to comfort and dignity, this gloomy intimacy on celluloid can be taxing, but oddly inducing.

Young Adam

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