Adam is a tender and well acted love story that does not resort to cliché nonsense in its depiction of mental illness, yet a clunky sub-plot distracts from its unique version of boy meets girl.
With 2001’s I Am Sam reaching the zenith in terms of mental disability as depicted on screen, Adam treads on dangerous ground in its bid to not go –as Kirk Lazarus from Tropic Thunder would say - “full on retard” in order to be effective.
And to his credit writer/director Max Mayer has spared us from the same old theatrics, taking cues from other films on what not to do in order to portray mental disability in a realistic light.
Hugh Dancy stars as Adam, a lonely engineer who suffers from a form of autism known as Asperger’s Syndrome. As a result it is hard for him to socially interact with strangers, opting to look to the stars with an intense interest in all things astronomy.
Dancy plays the role wonderfully well, enacting the eccentricities and fragility of his character’s condition without so much of a wink of Oscar bait prodding. When at one point he proclaims “I’m not Forrest Gump” never have truer words been uttered.
Starring alongside Dancy is Rose Byrne. She plays Beth, a school teacher and inspiring writer who begins a relationship with Adam, forcing him to live life outside of his sheltered existence.
Both Dancy and Byrne mesh very well together, breaking the streak for "lack of chemistry between on screen couples in romantic comedies". The romance between the two is infectiously sweet, and steadily evolves into a true love story that has its moments of bliss and crippling heartache.
Aiding their love story is a lush New York City backdrop, courtesy of cinematographer Seamus Tierney.
Unfortunately, Adam strays from the momentum developed in the first two thirds of the film, and inexplicably concentrates on a distracting sub plot involving the indictment of Beth’s accountant father (Peter Gallagher). It is a segway which annoys rather than adds to the central story, and unforgivably ruins the films main premise.
Adam is an enjoyable film, yet Mayer fails to capitalize on the love story between his mismatched pair. A refreshingly different conclusion keeps things interesting, yet by then too much time has been spent focusing on the wrong people.
A trim to the script was needed to make Adam the sleeper hit it was intended to be.