Also at verveslag.
Young Adam follows Joe (Ewan McGregor) a young barge worker whose haunting dark secret (Emily Mortimer) pushes him toward adultery with his employer’s wife, Ella (Tilda Swinton). This latest effort from David Mackenzie amounts to a stunningly shot, beautifully acted, lushly scored, and adeptly designed exercise in apathy . . . ours.
My biggest gripe with this film (beyond its unsavory main character and sex scenes that dangle dangerously between hot and rape to no clear artistic or practical end) is the fact the Joe, whose every minor fling with various not-quite-pretty married women and deep and meaningful looking cigarette break is exquisitely chronicled, doesn’t do anything. The diegetic world is no different (in even a petty way) as the credits roll from the way it is when the blue Sony Pictures Classics header flashes — at least not by his hand. But maybe that’s the point. After all, as far as I can tell, the real main character here is the human race. (Don’t let the trailer fool you — this is not a suspense film.) Hence, Young Adam is largely a dark, small, quiet romp in human temptation — in pain and strife without purpose; in the meaninglessness of everything. Which is why, at first, the film feels so unnatural; so, despite our strongest desires for it to be good, utterly terribly awful. Because traditional art is meaning-making, a practice with which this film refuses to concern itself.
So slap down your nine bucks if you want to see some stunning performances, particularly from relative unknowns, as well as Tilda Swinton glistening in one of her few major roles; to see a beautiful portrait of mid-Century Scotland, with all the fashion and accoutrement that goes with it; to hear a painful and heartfelt score from former Talking Heads member (and Scot) David Byrne; to wish the world were different from the way it is. But don’t if only to see a story about people — or rather, souls. That’s not what this is about.