David Mackenzie’s pretty-to-look-at but hollow Young Adam (adapted from the Alexander Trocchi novel) follows a young drifter, Joe (Ewan McGregor), between Glasgow and Edinburgh while he fucks every woman in sight. The drifter lives and works on a barge manned by the scruffy Les (Peter Mullan), whose wife Ella (Tilda Swinton) is seduced by Joe’s ability to sustain an erection. Joe’s curious obsession with a dead woman he pulls out of the water is explained when the film’s forward momentum is questionably intercut with scenes from the drifter’s past. By incorporating this gimmick into the narrative so late in the game, Mackenzie both undermines the emotions of his protagonist and the audience’s ability to connect dots chronologically and still remain interested in the material. Sure, the fearlessness with which Joe beds Ella (and the issues of dominance associated with their sexual encounters) fascinatingly parallels the man’s disconnect from the world, but Mckenzie seems less concerned with the moral dilemmas perpetuated by the film’s central mystery (and addressing the original sin implied by the film’s title) than he is with taking his characters’ clothes off. “A woman doesn’t get undressed for nothing,” someone says at one point, seemingly pointing to Mackenzie’s own contrived portraitures of impoverished women swooning before McGregor’s ready-and-willing lothario. Because the film’s women so readily disrobe (or wear very little underwear), the film’s ludicrous pudding-and-ketchup make-out session dangerously toys with the idea that Emily Mortimer’s Cathie participates if not wholly encourages her own rape. Young Adam is no more than a series of naughty sexual encounters with a specious moral quandary tacked on at the end. It lacks both the dangerous allure of Tropic of Cancer and the walking-on-eggshells existentialism of Crime and Punishment.
- David Mackenzie
- David Mackenzie
- Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Peter Mullan, Emily Mortimer, Jack McElhone, Therese Bradley, Ewan Stewart, Stuart McQuarrie, Pauline Turner
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