A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, despite the marketing campaign, this romantic film about the unusual but deeply compassionate relationship between a man with a high-functioning form of autism and his new neighbor is more dramatic than comedic. There are frank discussions about sex, since the man's condition means that he always says exactly what he thinks, even about sensitive matters. Also, some characters are perplexed by Adam's autism and sometimes downright hostile.
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What's the story?
Adam (Hugh Dancy), a 29-year-old electrical engineer, lives in a regimented world filled with routine meals (macaroni and cheese and frozen vegetables) and plain clothing (neutral-colored shirts and pants). His apartment, if drab, is neat as a pin. Adam has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism that leaves those who have it perfectly able to navigate the world -- but not emotions. So when friendly, pretty teacher Beth (Rose Byrne) moves into his building, Adam finds himself on unstable ground. Drawn to Beth but unable to make sense of love -- and the passion and confusion it entrails -- Adam is challenged to let her in. And Beth, who’s unearthing unpleasant secrets about her own family, has her own issues to deal with.
Is it any good?
There are so many ways that ADAM could have taken a wrong turn, but thankfully it doesn’t. Gracefully told and beautifully filmed, it steers clear of potholes that wreck most other movies about "conditions." First, there’s Dancy, whose turn as Adam is spot on -- no overacting here. He’s both tortured and content and always compelling. And Byrne is definitely his equal. When she falls in love, it’s believable, even given the daunting setup.
Director Max Mayer understands the importance of being earnest; instead of lacing the entire enterprise with breezy romcom energy, he goes for truthfulness. Though the approach may have taken the wind out of Adam’s sails just a bit -- it’s more serious than typical date-night fare and perhaps a bit melodramatic on rare occasions -- it leaves the film interesting. And that’s more than anyone else can say about romance movies of late.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difficulties inherent in Adam and Beth's relationship. Are they any worse than challenges that other couples face, or just different? Why are they drawn to each other?
How does the movie approach sex? Do Adam and Beth communicate well?
How have other movies and TV shows depicted characters suffering from autism and other similar conditions? How does Hugh Dancy's interpretation compare?
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