Young Adam contains so much full-frontal footage of Ewan McGregor and company in flagrante delicto, you'd think it was an episode of Red Shoes Diaries, only set on a Scottish barge. Unfortunately, the narrative incisiveness rarely penetrates deeper than that, either. David Mackenzie's film has moodiness in spades, but because the atmosphere doesn't service the plot in a meaningful way, Young Adam is maddeningly without point, even for a film based on a beat novel. One clear problem is that the film's two subplots -- McGregor's present tense aboard the boat, and his past tense with Emily Mortimer -- don't speak to each other. The common element between them is that in each, McGregor is a home-wrecking sadist with a fondness for angry sex. Where it wants to be profound and contemplative, Young Adam is mostly just empty relationship nihilism masquerading as intrigue. It tries to drape its downtrodden character studies on a mystery that reveals itself gradually throughout the movie, but even this structure is botched, as integral secrets are revealed without fanfare midway through act two. The performances are fine, but unremitting depressiveness is not exactly a tall order for these actors -- if it looks like they're doing it in their sleep, they may just be. Mackenzie's dialogue is best when it's austere, in step with the rest of the production. The moment it tries to accomplish something more ambitious, it veers off into melodrama. Young Adam will certainly have its fans, but they will come largely from those who prefer their art so unresolved, it's almost purposefully boring. Those with the gall to require catharsis or a sudden "aha!" moment are bound to be disappointed. Happily, David Byrne does perform the score.
by Derek Armstrong review