The cast. Mayer is in the middle and Dancy is to the left.
A long time ago, I was a social worker and then a family therapist. Later, I taught psychology. During the course of this, I worked with a few folks with Autism spectrum disorders–including Asperger’s Syndrome. Now I am NOT an expert but know enough by teaching about it, knowing folks with it (including a few of my students) and reading up on it to know whether or not a film that deals with this topic gets it right or wrong. It was because of this background I was excited to watch “Adam”–to see if I finally found a film that got it right. This is because although a lot of folks on the internet talk about this disorder (and many claim to have it–though in most cases this seems to be done to excuse boorish behavior) but few folks REALLY understand what it is. I sure wish I’d had this film available to me when I was teaching–it sure would have provided a nice example for my students.
I won’t spend a lot of time discussing what Asperger’s is–though it would make sense to briefly explain it. People with Asperger’s are generally quite normal. However, they are socially inept–having great difficulty picking up on normal social cues, understanding polite conversation and relating to people in a healthy manner. It’s as if they are socially retarded–generally unable to understand nuances, metaphors or things such as sarcasm or inferences. But, on the other hand, intellectually (aside from the social aspects) they are very normal and even sometimes brilliant. They are also incredibly literal in their thinking and speech. For someone to build a relationship with an individual like this is possible…though it certainly poses challenges.
Adam (Hugh Dancy) is a nice young man who lives alone and works with computers and loves astronomy. He happens to strike up a conversation with his neighbor, Beth (Rose Byrne) and slowly they become friends. But, early on, it’s obvious to Beth that there is something wrong with Adam. When he tells her he was diagnosed with Asperger’s, she learns more about him–such as how to interact with him as well as his social shortcomings. And, despite this problem, she learns to love him and vice-versa. The movie then unfolds–and addresses the unspoken salient point–is loving a person enough when you’re in a relationship?
The writer/director of this film is Max Mayer. It’s obvious that Max either knows someone with the diagnosis or he really, really did his homework. The film very accurately portrays someone with these life challenges–and Hugh Dancy was amazing in the film–simply amazing. I also really, really appreciated how the movie did NOT simply give way to sentiment or stuff itself with clichés, film formula or false nobility. Realism and integrity of the characters is what made this film really work for me.
If you do see this exceptional film (and I strongly recommend you do), a couple things I noticed that you may also like are Dancy’s amazing performance which includes no trace of his British accent as well as the cute scene with Beth reading to her young students. As for Ms. Byrne, she is also excellent and I had no idea she was an Aussie–there was no trace of this accent in the film. The way the little kids talked about “The Emperor’s New Clothes”–and how some just didn’t get it at all–was very realistic. Apparently, Mayer also really understands kids and child development! What a great film–and one of the few movies where I have NOTHING negative to say about it!