Without doubt one of the most tenderly truthful, lovingly directed, best acted, gorgeously-shot British films of the last decade.
Ewan McGregor proves again what a chameleon actor he is (a British Matt Damon, less bland-faced?) in the lead role - a shily charismatic young man finding his way in the often harsh world of `50s Scotland, mostly on coal barges, a `young Adam` in fact - which sees him on screen in almost every scene. Easy to forget what a fine, committed, humorous actor he is. One of our best?
Tilda Swinton is, as so often, a revelation. She has a grace, a willowy pale beauty all her own. I`ve never seen her more moving than here. A tough, decisive, rather vulnerable woman, bravely real in the sexual episodes, of which there are many. It`s worth saying here how rare it is to find a British film so open, tender and unsentimental in its depiction of sex. It would miss the point to call such scenes `graphic`. They are realistic, never prurient or exploitative.
Peter Mullan is as unsmilingly good as ever, and there is another of Emily Mortimer`s pitch-perfect portraits of a character one wishes to know more about. (Can there be higher praise?) She is an actress I always look forward to watching. She is one of the several women who are used - and to some extent abused, though that`s not the whole story - by Joe, the drifter played by McGregor, and her scenes are as beautifully played as those of Swinton`s in their honesty & commitment.
I can`t think of any other film from these shores that is quite like Young Adam. Such one-offs are more often (though not often enough) found on TV these days.
It is yet one more failing of the awards system, on both sides of the Atlantic, that this film was so ignored. Tilda Swinton gets Oscar nods now for work she could probably do standing on her head. This says far more for her than the Academy.
A modestly great film, with a sober, thoughtful ending. Like reading a sadly satisfying novel.