We begin with a slight, bewildered man
holding a tri-folded American flag, standing by the grave of his father.
He seems very alone. Then,
back at his apartment, eating the same dinner, night after night (macaroni and
cheese). Adam (Hugh Dancy) lives
a solitary life. He goes to work
in a small office, where he seems to barely connect to those around him.
He’s working on some sort of mechanical talking doll.
His boss keeps coming by to tell him that he needs 1000 at $10, not 10
at $1000. But Adam can’t help
his perfectionism. In fact, it
seems that there is much about himself that he can’t help, the most obvious
being a distinct lack of social adaptability.
We learn that he has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.
He has difficulty making eye contact with others.
He doesn’t really know what others are thinking, and assumes that
what they mean is exactly what they say.
He doesn’t have any real friends.
There is an older fella, an Army buddy of his Dad’s, who comes by to
check up on him every once in a while, and maybe drive him somewhere he needs
to go, in a beat-up old van that seems as out of place on the streets of New
York City as Adam himself.
Enter Beth (Rose Byrne).
She seems fairly normal; they literally bump into each other on the way
to the laundry room. She appears
to converse normally; he emits a
painful reluctance and a palpable uncomfortableness.
There’s something about Beth that
wants to help fill in the gaps for Adam.
To fill in the blanks of his long silences and his awkward assumptions
about what might pass for pleasant conversation.
He’s not a chit-chatter. He
looks at her like he expects her to say something, and so she does.
Because Beth has her own sense of
stunted emotional growth---a boyfriend whom she just caught cheating on her, a
painful sense of emotional vulnerability, an apparent lack of social network
because of recently moving in to the apartments and accepting a school
teaching job nearby----she, too, seems isolated and alone.
We discover she has parents, and they live not far away, but they
don’t seem to be all that important in her life, either.
And so Beth and Adam are sort of thrown together like two survivors in
a lifeboat----practically forced to relate to one another for the sake of
preservation of sanity, if not preservation of self.
Do we root for the relationship?
Yes, because there seem to be some redemptive elements for both of
them, but No, because it still seems to be uneven;
far from reciprocal or mutual. She’s
afraid that he relies on her a little too much, and yet she’s also afraid to
be alone. She says she wants to
write, and he says he really wants to be an astronomer, and both deal with the
difficulty of life not meeting expectations, and relationships rarely
reflecting hope for their own future. But
it’s not a “downer,” despite the melancholy music, because we so much
want to see our main characters transcend the traps of their own devising.
Ah, if we could only become who we were really meant to be…..\
“Adam” cannot be considered a mere
“rom-com” (romantic comedy), because it refuses to indulge in schmaltz.
It cannot be considered an action/adventure because it’s incredibly
narrowly focused---a very small circle of people, none of them famous, none of
them extraordinarily gifted, all of them trying desperately to not become
their own worst enemies. But we
want to root for “Adam,” because of the delicately-wrought performances,
aided by a well-written script that actually tries to plow some new ground.
It’s a unique little indie film that is best enjoyed without the
burden of great expectation.
Questions For Discussion:
When have you been your own worst enemy?
When have others around you disappointed you so
much that you found yourself unable to forgive and forget?
When have you been in a relationship that you
knew wasn’t forever, but you just wanted it for the moment?
Looking back now, was it worth it?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace
Presbyterian Church, Greenville, Texas