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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
One of the more quietly desperate films of recent past, Young Adam is an interesting study of lower working class characters - working poor, perhaps set against an idyllic Scotland river life we have probably never seen. That working barges ply streams with bridges so narrow that crew must guide the craft along by kicking the tunnel-like sides of passage and canals and rivers are so pastorally picturesque is an awfully artful examination of a simpler time.
Joe (Ewan McGregor), a hired hand laboring on a barge-of-all-trades is the bad-boy promiscuous lover of any and all girls within contact. Torrid sex with any and all of them is his single-minded purpose, we gather at first. But we quickly find he 1.) is or was a writer (failed or perhaps more correctly never-started) 2) is linked to a body found in a river and 3) is seemingly incapable of or devoid of emotion. But we are going to alter some our judgments of Joe as more is revealed.
Sexual promiscuity confined to abrupt, even relentless encounters is the main character's focus even though we know it is as unfeelingly given as it seems to be received. In one encounter, nearly violent in its depiction, we cannot see the face of his partner as she cries (or is she laughing?). Interestingly lit, we marvel at this singularly stark depiction of lust. Ella (Tilda Swinton) and her husband Les (Peter Mullan) have employed Joe on their barge and it is not long before we see how Joe has changed the dynamic in the marriage. It is with Les that Joe recovers the body of a woman floating in the river. Curiously Joe cannot manage the use of a boat hook to snare the woman's body; Les has to take over.
The story becomes one of determining who the woman is and how she fits into the story. Through flashbacks we see a disturbing development as as the police investigation of the dead woman ensues; we continue to follow this thread through the course of the film.
The music chosen for the film is unmemorable, but that may serve us well in that it is never a distraction. Time passes during the course of the story, but it could be a week, perhaps six months.
An interesting film, the title has been bandied about for its Biblical reference but reveals little about the matters at hand. In the final analysis the only surprise found in the movie is when a prominent figure merely disappears; consistent with the tempo, it is a profoundly quiet moment. Disturbing at every turn, this is a film charged with raw sexuality and should be seen to appreciate naturalistic film.
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