Young Adam

Young Adam
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Peter Mullan, Emily Mortimer, Jack McElhone, Therese Bradley, Ewan Stewart, Stuart McQuarrie, Pauline Turner
Director: David Mackenzie
Genre: Drama/Crime/Thriller
Rated: MA 15+ high level sex scenes, nudity
Running Time: 94 Minutes

Joe, a rootless young drifter, finds work on a barge travelling between Glasgow and Edinburgh, owned by Leslie and his wife Ella.
One afternoon they discover the corpse of a young woman floating in the canal. Accident? Suicide? Murder?
As the police investigate and a suspect is arrested, we discover that Joe knows more than he's letting on, and gradually we learn of Joe's past relationship with the dead woman.
Meanwhile an unspoken attraction has developed between Joe and Ella, and claustrophobic tensions evolve between the three of them in the confined space of the barge.

My Verdict:
Ewan McGregor is Joe, a young drifter living in the 50's, who has a job on a barge in Scotland. One day, he finds a woman floating in the canal, and with his boss, Les, they pull her out of the water and inform the police. This is the opening scene and it becomes clear right from here that Joe already knows the identity of the dead woman; it's just a case of finding his connection to her, and finding the circumstances of her death. To say that 'Young Adam' is a slow, sluggish and almost depressing movie is an understatement. There is no light, bubble or froth here as we discover from various flashback sequences Joes's connection to the dead woman.

Joe is itinerant and a sometime loner, seeking friendship and sex when opportunity knocks, but not intentionally seeking it. His job on the barge is a means to an end, and he uses the opportunity to hit on Les's wife, Ella, who is initially reluctant to accept his lustful advances, but her sexual appetite eventually wins and she and Joe engage in an affair where they use every chance to have sex, even when Les is on board the barge. The sexual tension between the two is so palpable, made so by the excellent performances by McGregor and Tilda Swinton as Ella. But Ella is no oil painting and it's obvious the extremely handsome Joe is using her, which they both know, but don't care about. This relationship is not based on any mutual friendship but on lust and self-indulgence. Time after time, Ella and Joe wait for any moment to have sex together, which sometimes makes it seem like this is just an opportunity for the audience to participate as voyeurs.

Emily Mortimer plays Cathie, the woman found floating in the canal and former partner of Joe. She is seeking something from someone and uses Joe whilst she's looking, and they too have a tumultuous relationship.

'Young Adam' is not a particularly pretty film, set in the bleaker canal districts between Edinburgh and Glasgow, where poverty and the struggle to survive are in abundance. The characters are all tortured souls to some degree, the atmosphere is tortured where the characters seem to be merely enduring their lives without any happiness, and the overall feel is one of gloom and murkiness. Sounds dismal and it may end up being that way for some, but others may see it as a fascinating and brilliant study of human nature because of the performances of McGregor and Swinton.

Rating : B-

Christina Bruce