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Young Adam (2003)

Directed by:

David Mackenzie

David Mackenzie

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 93 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

1950s Glasgow-set ‘Young Adam’ has several striking features to it: an impressive performance from Ewan McGregor, painstaking direction from David Mackenzie, and an incredible amount of nookie. It also struck me that there’s nobody in it who’s actually called Adam. It’s something I’d like to ask original novelist Alexander Trocchi about, but can’t because he’s dead. So there goes that idea, then.

McGregor plays Joe (not Adam), a struggling writer who takes a job working on a barge for a cold and deadpan couple played by Peter Mullan and Tilda Swinton, neither of whom are called Adam. When the body of a woman who’s name isn’t Adam is found floating in the canal, flashbacks start to piece together the grimy tale of Joe’s connection to said corpse.

Joe’s favourite past-times appear to be bed-hopping and sitting around looking moody, both of which there is a LOT of in this film. Grubby sex scenes are used to paint a picture of Joe’s less-than-charming personality, with an array of daft women seemingly willing to drop their drawers at the very sight of him. When his new landlord says to him “You’ll have to meet the missus. I work nights – you’ll probably see more of her than me”, you know instantly that the last thing this guy should be doing is letting him ANYWHERE NEAR his missus. And, in one of the flick’s more shocking moments, one of his conquests stands in full view of him in a bath. It’s not the nudity that’s shocking as much as the idea that a Glaswegian would ever take a bath. We also get to see Ewan’s ‘McGregor’, which I have to admit is something I could have lived without.

As an exercise in direction, cinematography and even acting ‘Young Adam’ is a triumph. McGregor, Swinton, Mullan and Mortimer are well used to doing this sort of stuff, and for Ewan in particular it must be much less of a strain than having to persist with those dodgy Alec Guinness impersonations as Obi-Wan. Unfortunately, as a story it’s dirty, not particularly interesting and has a wholly unsatisfying ending which left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

It's Got: A novel use for custard.

It Needs: To tell us who Adam is. All we know for sure is that he’s young.


Ratcatcher, Shallow Grave, Spider, The Man Who Wasnt There


A well-made and well-acted film with a distinct indie feel to it. Just a pity David Mackenzie couldn’t find a better tale to give his big screen adaptation treatment to.

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