Young Adam (2003)

NC-17  |   |  Crime, Drama  |  26 September 2003 (UK)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 6.5/10 from 11,101 users   Metascore: 67/100
Reviews: 115 user | 107 critic | 32 from

A young drifter working on a river barge disrupts his employers' lives while hiding the fact that he knows more about a dead woman found in the river than he admits.


Watch Trailer
0Check in

On Disc

at Amazon

7 wins & 16 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Nora (2000)
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

In 1904, in Dublin, James Joyce chats up Nora Barnacle, a hotel maid recently come from Galway. She enchants him with her frank, direct and uninhibited manner, and before long, he's ... See full summary »

Director: Pat Murphy
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Susan Lynch, Andrew Scott
Hallam Foe (2007)
Drama | Mystery | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Hallam's talent for spying on people reveals his darkest fears-and his most peculiar desires. Driven to expose the true cause of his mother's death, he instead finds himself searching the rooftops of the city for love.

Director: David Mackenzie
Stars: Jamie Bell, Ruth Milne, John Paul Lawler
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

Two men meet up, while travelling north on separate missions. Charlie wants to catch up with the man who has stolen his wife, while Vicente is trying to escape a contract castration. After ... See full summary »

Director: David Mackenzie
Stars: Alastair Mackenzie, Jonny Phillips, Ewan Stewart
Perfect Sense (2011)
Drama | Romance | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A chef and a scientist fall in love as an epidemic begins to rob people of their sensory perceptions.

Director: David Mackenzie
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Eva Green, Lauren Tempany
Incendiary (2008)
Drama | Romance | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

A woman's life is forever changed when tragedy strikes at a soccer match.

Director: Sharon Maguire
Stars: Michelle Williams, Ewan McGregor, Matthew Macfadyen
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

As a young girl in Japan, Nagiko's father paints characters on her face, and her aunt reads to her from "The Pillow Book", the diary of a 10th-century lady-in-waiting. Nagiko grows up, ... See full summary »

Director: Peter Greenaway
Stars: Vivian Wu, Ewan McGregor, Yoshi Oida
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Aaaah... it's New York City in 1962, and love is blooming between a journalist and a feminist advice author, who's falling head over heels despite her beau's playboy lifestyle.

Director: Peyton Reed
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Renée Zellweger, David Hyde Pierce
Julia (2008)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A woman tries to extort money, using a young boy as bait.

Director: Erick Zonca
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Saul Rubinek, Kate del Castillo
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

Young Dutch landscape architect Meneer Chrome comes to a remote English estate where Thomas Smithers lives with his wife, Juliana. Smithers is determined to leave as his legacy a fabulous ... See full summary »

Director: Philippe Rousselot
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Greta Scacchi, Pete Postlethwaite
Deception I (2008)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

An accountant is introduced to a mysterious sex club known as The List by his lawyer friend. But in this new world, he soon becomes the prime suspect in a woman's disappearance and a multi-million dollar heist.

Director: Marcel Langenegger
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Ewan McGregor, Michelle Williams
Little Voice (1998)
Comedy | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

The pathetically shy LV lives the life of a recluse listening to her late father's old records in her room and in the process driving her abusive, loud-mouthed mother, Mari Hoff, to ... See full summary »

Director: Mark Herman
Stars: Brenda Blethyn, Jane Horrocks, Michael Caine
Comedy | Crime | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Ewan McGregor stars as a cleaning man in L.A. who takes his boss' daughter hostage after being fired and replaced by a robot. Two "angels" who are in charge of human relationships on earth,... See full summary »

Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: Cameron Diaz, Ewan McGregor, Holly Hunter


Cast overview, first billed only:
Therese Bradley ...
Ewan Stewart ...
Daniel Gordon
Pauline Turner ...
Alan Cooke ...
Bob M'bussi
Ian Hanmore ...
Freight Supervisor
Andrew Neil ...
Arnold Brown ...
Bowler Hat Man
Meg Fraser ...
Stall Woman


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 Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated NC-17 for some explicit sexual content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

26 September 2003 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

El joven Adán  »

Box Office


£4,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£228,692 (UK) (26 September 2003)


$767,240 (USA) (13 August 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Ewan McGregor's nude scenes were originally going to be cut from the U.S. release, but after McGregor objected, the full-frontal nude scenes were put back in. See more »


The position of the arms, and also the rag covering the body, change. See more »


Les Gault: What'd you do that for?
Joe Taylor: I had no use for it.
Les Gault: Must be worth something, though.
Joe Taylor: Not to me.
See more »


Featured in Indie Sex: Censored (2007) See more »


Written & Performed by David Byrne
Published by Moldy Fig Music (BMI)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

More is said in silence than with dialogue
2 February 2004 | by (Hong Kong) – See all my reviews

Spoiler warning !!

Although the audience may not realise it initially, this film is carefully constructed with two story lines, one of which is through flashbacks that blend so seamlessly with the 'present' that it feels like it's running in parallel. As well, the director is in no hurry to give the audience everything all at once. He lets the flashback story seep through the screen in its good time. However, he does plant along the way plenty of details that may seem a little strange but make perfect sense as the story unfolds. The best example is at the very beginning. Joe (Ewan McGregor) and his employer Les (Peter Mullan) fish a woman's dead body form the Glasgow-Edinburgh canal which their barge is working. In the same evening, when they are having supper in the cabin with Les' wife Ella (Tilda Swinton) and little boy, Les asks Joe if he thinks that it's murder. Joe breaks out into an almost poetic description of what he thinks has happened, that the woman committed suicide. This near-monologue is totally out of character with lowly barge hand Joe, until two things are revealed later: Joe the writer (or his aspiration to be one), and his relationship with the dead woman.

Not only the past, but even the present, is revealed ever so gradually. As the sexual liaison between Joe and Ella develops, we are under the impression that Ella is very much of an abused (though not physically or violently) wife totally under the control of her husband. It isn't until Les confronting Joe on the deck that we see an unexpected turn of events, with Les' short, crisp announcement of 'It's her barge'. Although Les has never been exactly a model husband, it turns out that Ella is the real boss, in a very literal sense. We now see the tough side of Ella. When Les packs his things and leaves, wondering when he can see his son who is now at boarding school, we can't help but feel a little sympathy for him.

The film is certainly not made to please the mainstream audience. First, on the practical side, it does not care about political correctness, and shows cigarette smoking scenes in abundance. The film is shot with a general tone of depressing gloominess, with a few well placed out-focused scenes, the most noticeable being the ending scene with Joe walking away from the river. Yet, there is a melancholic beauty in the sometimes grainy photography. At the very beginning, the long-range shot of the dock and background scenery is so beautifully framed that it can easily win a price at a photography contest. Equally melancholic is the general use of the cello in background music. Sound off is not used that much. In fact I only recall one, the sound of buses and other street vehicles, cutting from Joe with Ella in bed at the cabin of the barge to a flashback of a busy street scene of his re-encounter with his ex-girlfriend Cathie (Emily Mortimer). The motif of the hand mirror inscribed with loving words from Cathie to Joe is, however, slightly over-used.

As to my summary line, all of the more subtle exchanges in the film are made in silence, rather than with dialogue. The two best examples are of course Joe's seduction of Ella and his first encounter with Cathy (in that order in the film, but in reverse order chronologically). There is of course dialogue but by the time it gets to the dialogue, the parties have already established an understanding beyond words.

One reviewer makes an insightful comparison of Joe to Camus' Outsider. Indeed, rather than being portrayed as an irresponsible libertine, Joe is shown as a confused outsider, often driven by his own physical desire, but not entirely without sensibility. This persona is echoed by the title Young Adam, still young but post-Garden of Eden, tossed into a cheerless world and doomed to an endless exile.

The acting is first class all around. McGreagor shows that he is made of sterner stuff than needed for a light-sabre-happy Obi-wan Kenobi or a love-sick Christian. Swinton works the layers of Ella amazingly well, first the passive, guilt-troubled wife (particularly at the second liaison when Joe breaks the lamp) then the liberated woman temporarily carried away with ideas of divorce and remarriage, and finally very quickly coming down to earth again. More easily overlooked is Mullan playing the cockolded husband, maybe not to the stupendous height of the gentleman at Camelot, but with his own grass-root poignancy. Mortimer's role may not be as demanding as the other three's, but her competent portrayal of Cathie's endearing young charm is quite necessary to make Joe's subsequent remorse convincing.

Young Adam is not for everybody, but definitely a marvellous cinematic experience to those with the capacity to appreciate.

28 of 38 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
young adam? burkestephanie
Films set in Scotland always miserable? alconway
these actors disappointed me mariantheitalian
The Extended Scene..... Ewansgirl144
r vs. nc-17 BunuelCronenberg
Soundtrack Bluenymph21
Discuss Young Adam (2003) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: