Young Adam [DVD] 
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David MacKenzie's adaptation of Alexander Trocchi's novel. Whilst travelling on a barge between Glasgow and Edinburgh, drifter Joe (Ewan McGregor) and his boss Les (Peter Mullan) discover a woman's corpse in the water and Joe pulls her out. On the surface, Joe does not appear to be distressed by the situation - even with all the police investigation on-going - and gets on with his work on the barge. But his behaviour starts to become erratic when he embarks on an affair with Leslie's wife Ella (Tilda Swinton) and flashbacks reveal his link to the dead woman (Emily Mortimer).
David Mackenzie's Young Adam, based on Alexander Trocchi's existentialist novel, demonstrates that Ewan McGregor means what he says about using high-paying Hollywood roles to finance appearances in intelligent low-budget movies. As Joe, an aspiring 1950s writer whose alienated selfishness destroys everyone around him, he is quietly authoritative. Tilda Swinton and Emily Mortimer are hardly less good as the two women in his life, and Peter Mullen as Les, the older friend whom he betrays, is touching and macho in the same breath. Les's canal barge is as much of a character as any of the people--this is a film in which the characters' occupations matter. Similarly the 1950s period detail is stunning, as is the gloomy cinematography: the high relief shadows and occasional visual distortions give the film a real visual style of its own that works well with its literary subject matter.
On the DVD: Young Adam is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound. Special features include an informative making-of featurette in which the cast members talk about their passionate commitment to the project, the theatrical trailer, an audio track of David Byrne's original score, and a sequence of Ewan McGregor narrative voice-overs that runs with stills on screen. --Roz Kaveney
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This is another one of those films that "slipped under the radar" as such, it's not well know but it is certainly worth a watch.
Ewan McGregor plays Joe Taylor a single man working on a barge which operates from Glasgow to Edinburgh with a husband and wife team (Peter Mullan as Les Gault, Tilda Swinton his wife Ella Gault) The film is set in the mid 50's and has a suitable "de-saturated" look to the filming somewhat dark/grey and industrial in many ways not unlike a Scottish equivalent of Angela's Ashes (for the look and feel)
Joe finds a body of a young woman in the water and with the help of Peter pulls it out, the police are informed and we see little reaction from Joe after seeing the body, life carries on as usual on the barge working mostly to move coal a job where Peter and Joe are hands on getting the work done, his wife Ella looks after the couple's son Jim and provides the men with their food/laundry as well as helping out cleaning the barge.
The storyline which follows is done via a series of "flashbacks" showing Joe and his relationship with the girl he found in the water (Emily Mortimer who plays Cathie) These small segments intertwine with current events on the barge, and hint at the character of Joe and the girl he used to be with. Despite the lack of emotion from Joe, there are developments on the barge with some steamy moments coming to the forefront with Ella. But Joe's attempts at putting the past behind him seem in vain, as the relationship with Peter's wife continues there are consequences for his actions.
The acting is first class across the board excellent performances from all the lead and even minor roles. Ewan is suitably detached and aloft of emotions most of the time, Tilda Swinton does a good job of the bored wife who seeks some excitement with Joe, and makes sure the sparks fly on screen. As far as the story goes it's a slow burning affair, as more details of the relationship with Joe and Cathie unfold during the course of the film. It is also clear with scenes on the barge, that Joe isn't really cut out for a longer term relationship he seems keen to have sexual encounters but unable to really be attached to and of the women he meets.
There are some graphic scenes and some nudity though it doesn't feel overdone or gratuitous, except for one bizarre somewhat degrading sexual scene where a fight between Joe and Cathie turns into something a bit odd to put it mildly. The story is quite solid, possibly a bit too relaxed at times, nor any attempt to put a single high impact scene into the film, it unfolds the story in a relaxed and calm manner. As for the ending it's suitable though not a revelation, this is a curious film in more than a few ways and probably raises more questions than it answers. We never really get to know Joe that well; we see what he does though he is indifferent most times during the film (a couple of times he does show some emotion though) in a way that might suit the main character as he doesn't really seem to know what he wants just taking what comes his way. Events change later during the film for Joe, but he seems to do the same things (he only really shows an interest in steamy encounters no real ambition nor a desire to settle down)
I enjoyed the film it's somewhat dark and downbeat, not an uplifting production in any way (don't expect a dramatic conclusion). I'm not sure how it will hold up on repeated viewings, though I would liked to have known more about some of the characters. Part of me feels the film whilst good, could have been even better if we saw more about Joe and why he struggles in finding a direction for himself. Certainly worth a watch though if you're in the mood for something a bit different.
Other reviews led me to believe that this would be dark & depressing.
For me it was neither.
Certainly the gritty realism is there & it accurately reflects life for many in the West Central Scotland of the 1950's.
I see the main theme of the story being the struggles & loneliness of the 'bohemian' writer surviving & making the most of life & sex in the tough working class environment of life on a canal cargo barge.
The 3 main actors Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton & Peter Mullan all give strong performances but are ably supported by the 'lesser' lights.
The extra feature commentary is very useful for filling in the gaps in the plot that you may have missed on 1st viewing.
This confirms that Ewan's 'Joe' character does have a heart & conscience & is not totally dark & selfish.
There are only a very few films which I have seen - other than funny light comedies - which have made such a long-term impact upon me. Yet this film is not one of the main actor's 'famous' titles. It puts me in the mind of some of those sixties/seventies films and has a really close in feel which means you are compelled to continue watching to find out what happens.
A moody, touching film, and full frontal male nudity (just the once) but much much more than that.
Aside from the enitely brilliant cast the cinematography is superaltive. Such simple shots as the barge moving through a lock-gate, fair-ground lights fading away or even just rain falling onto the canal's surface are rendered absurdly memorable. All of the exceptional photography is heightened by a soundtrack that is at once filth and ethereal. I honestly cannot recommend this film enough although the small screen struggles to do justice to some of the most beautiful frames. And if possible read the Trocchi first (its very short), as it is one of the literature's most overlooked treasures and essential for enthusiasts of modernist and existentialist work. As to the meaning behind the title, two things came to my mind: one would wreck the plot but as for the second, when you watch the film think carefully about the expressionist value of Adam of the Creation, and things should become clear...
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Yes, it is well acted and the photography was good; but the story was nothing much at all and the ending was...Read more