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Joe, a rootless young drifter, finds work on a barge travelling between Glasgow and Edinburgh, owned by Les and his wife Ella. One afternoon they discover the corpse of a young woman floating in the water. Accident? Suicide? Murder? As the police investigate and suspect is arrested, we discover that Joe knows more than he is letting on. Gradually we learn of Joe's past relationship with the dead woman. Meanwhile an unspoken attraction develops between Joe and Ella, heightening the claustrophobic tensions in the confined space of the barge. Written by
What an emotionless portrayal of an emotionless man. Ewan yet again proves that he is a force in both the Hollywood community and in the independent forum. Not only for having the bravery to go against American cliché and fight to keep his full frontal nudity in the film, but also for having the gumption to take this role. This is not your average character. Joe is not your normal 'hero'. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he represents all of us. He is, sadly, our 'hero'. Joe (and Ewan portrays this perfectly) is constantly looking for happiness and acceptance, but somehow cannot find it due to the sexual urges that he has. It is interesting to see him want to have emotion, but yet have no issues with sleeping with another man's wife. This is a story of maturity for Joe, but sadly we do not ever see it. When I was watching this film I was continually thinking of the film Alfie (not the new release, but the older) in which a man embarks on several relationships and ultimately ends up with nothing. That is very similar to the story that we have here, only Young Adam is much grittier and darker and, well, more explicit.
So many times in cinema we watch two actors give heartbreaking performances on screen, but just do not have the chemistry needed to really pull together those intense sex scenes. That is not the case here. The chemistry and raw emotion between Ewan and Tilda Swinton is phenomenal. I have not seen a better match up in cinema in a long time. This successfully added that extra intensity to their moments of glory. I was able to feel and see their emotion and passion for each other on the screen. It was exactly what this film needed to reach the next level.
I know this story is based off a book, but I felt that director David Mackenzie did a fantastic job of setting the mood and the scenes. He amazingly built this sense of claustrophobia that surrounded Joe from not only inside the boat, but also under the truck and in the second apartment. There was even that feeling at the trial. This claustrophobia is one of the reasons why Joe never stays in one place for very long. While some will argue that he is nothing more than a heartless womanizer and a coward, I saw him as a tragic spirit searching for the lifelong happiness that he could never find. His conscious was too heavy on him to ever find that perfect place. Mackenzie allowed Ewan to find this character, and this powerful drama was transformed well into the screen.
Finally, I would like to add that Ewan would not have been worth seeing in this film if it wasn't for the impressive Tilda Swinton who is seemingly in everything lately and gives nothing less than 110%. I have not seen anything that she has been in that was anything below good. She is our next Oscar winner and one of those actresses that are not afraid to get dirty. Her portrayal of Ella is no different. While others would have simply just played the part, Swinton creates the part and gives this film the backbone that it deserves. She nearly steals every scene from Ewan, and that is impressive.
Overall, Young Adam is a deeply disturbing and depressing film that is not for everyone, but will be enjoyed by those that are fans of this genre.
Grade: **** out of *****
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