‘Adam’ – Asperger syndrome sparks uncommon romance

‘Adam’ – Asperger syndrome sparks uncommon romance


The title character in “Adam” can’t carry on a healthy conversation at a cocktail party. He eats the same frozen dinner every night and hasn’t a clue how to read social cues.

Adam’s Asperger syndrome leaves him isolated even in a crowded room.

Yet in the winsome new film Adam manages to spark a courtship with a lovely school teacher (Rose Byrne).

Suffice to say the film, just released on DVD and Blu-ray, isn’t your typical screen romance.

The love story requires a leap of faith made possible by the endearing leads, one achieved despite a clunky subplot stripped straight out of “Say Anything.”

Adam (Hugh Dancy) lives alone in a large New York apartment building following the death of his father. His condition may leave him socially unaware, but his facile brain comes in handy as an electronic toy designer.

His loneliness lifts when he strikes up a friendship with his neighbor, Beth (Byrne). She just escaped a bad relationship and sees something genuine in Adam. Even when she learns about his condition she decides, after some internal debate, to give their relationship a chance.

Meanwhile, Beth’s father (Peter Gallagher) gets enmeshed in a legal scandal, one that could shatter her family’s Norman Rockwell appearance.

“Adam” doesn’t romanticize the main character’s condition. Dancy realistically captures Adam’s frustrations, his sense of bewilderment in social settings and his awkward attempts to woo Beth. It’s a gentle performance, one that rarely calls attention to itself.

The histrionics involving Beth’s father aren”t so subtle. Gallagher isn’t the most instinctual actors around, and it’s clear the father’s plight exists solely to push a few buttons in the Adam/Beth romance.

Byrne gives Beth a healthy balance of skepticism regarding their relationship, but a less beautiful actress would have been more believable given the intensity of Adam’s social miscues.

“Adam” remains faithful to the main character’s condition, leaving audiences with a far more satisfying finale than the typical romantic comedy too eager to concoct happy endings all around.

NOTE: WWTW would love to hear from readers who know people with Asperger Syndrome and who have seen this film. Did you find the film realistic? Is it a fair assessment of this syndrome?

(Photo: Rose Byrne and Hugh Dancy consider a romance in “Adam,” a new drama out now on DVD/Fox Home Entertainment)

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

blackhawk12151No Gravatar February 15, 2010 at 3:29 am

I do know two people with Asperger’s but have yet to see this film. I think I’ll move this to the top of the queue.

blackhawk12151No Gravatar February 16, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Ok Christian, watched the movie. I should say that I do not know either of them very well but have interacted with one several times. He is certainly not as socially impaired as Adam was, but there are some similarities. He seems to do fine in one on one conversations. He rarely makes eye contact and sometimes seems to pretend to know what you are talking about. He has a harder time in group settings. I have never seen him display the level of anxiety that Adam did but he seems to have a hard time discerning the appropriate time to enter a conversation that is already in progress. Many time he will speak at the same time as someone else and end up talking to himself because other people are paying attention to the other person. He will also frequently bring up an unrelated topic during conversations seemingly out of nowhere.

That said, he has never had an outburst like Adam, although I have a feeling those were for dramatic effect, I’ve never heard of Asperger’s sufferers having outbursts that severe.

As for the movie itself, I enjoyed it, but I think that was mostly because the two leads were great. The actual story was not that engaging and some of the plot points designed to create an emotional reaction fell flat, for me at least. Why in the world did Adam get that upset at Beth over a little white lie? I understand that he would deal with a lie differently because of the way he processes information but if I recall correctly she was the one who was reluctant to have Adam meet her parents. That she would manipulate a situation like that didn’t really make sense to me. But Rose Byrne and Hugh Dancy were great so I enjoyed the 100 minutes I spent watching it.

cftotoNo Gravatar February 16, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Blackhawk … I enjoyed the film precisely for the reasons you mentioned. And BTW, I’m doing a Q&A with the man who served as the Asperger’s syndrome consultant on the film. Expect to post that at WWTW ASAP.

blackhawk12151No Gravatar February 16, 2010 at 9:53 pm

I would probably watch Rose Byrne do anything. I definitely think she has the goods to be a big name star.

cftotoNo Gravatar February 16, 2010 at 11:03 pm

She is all kinds of beautiful … and flies directly under the proverbial radar time and time again.

BrnNo Gravatar February 26, 2010 at 2:38 am

My wife and I just watched this today based on your review. Our seven year old son has Asperger’s and we saw a lot of his characteristics in Adam. We laughed in recognition several times at the long detailed monologues that he launched into at inappropriate times. We both thought that the movie did a very good job of portraying life for a person with Asperger’s.

CeeArrNo Gravatar July 20, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I just watched it last night. Hugh Dancy was perfect. I have a child with Aspergers and Hugh Dancy was perfect, from his mannerisms and gait to his facial expressions. The dialogue that was written for him, the monologues and bluntness, was perfect. Many people immediately think of Rain Man whenever Autism is mentioned. It would have been nice if this film was more well known as another portrayal.

Harlan was a great character because he reminded me of how we have to interact with our son to make him change course and our exasperation. Frankie Faison is awesome anyway.

I agree about Rose Byrne, she is beautiful and a great actress. I’m not usually an Amy Irving fan, but she was good. On the other hand, I am usually a Peter Gallagher fan, but he started to get on my nerves.

mrschicoNo Gravatar November 22, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I have an adult son with Asberger’s. I found much of Hugh Dancy’s portrayal right on the money, including the scene involving violence. The scene with violence could be replaced with any man or woman, irregardless of any disability – it is a human condition.

There were so many scenes that reminded me of my son. Waiting for 8:00 pm to arrive, the discussion of telescopes in minutae at the party, seeing a little white lie as an abomination, his gentleness.

My son is more socially active and has the ability to tell jokes. I know another individual with Asperger’s and he also is very social. They just don’t always read the social cues of others. The scene at the theatre reminded me of some of the problems of individuals with Asperger’s – they don’t know how to quit. It can be like listening to Books on Tape.

This movie made me cry a little knowing that my son will always have relationship difficulties, especially when it comes to women. It will take the right woman out there to look past his difficulties and see him as the sweet loving man that he is. He will never be able to fully express himself in the way that “Beth” wanted – he will never be able to look her in the eyes and know what she is thinking. He can read a book to find out what she wants to hear but it will never be intuitive for him.

The movie is a little lacking on plot, but I appreciated the effort to portray the difficulties of someone with Asperger’s. It was portrayed with sensitivity and truthfullness.

CeeArrNo Gravatar November 22, 2010 at 8:22 pm

@mrschico – Those were almost exactly my feelings about the movie. I also have a son with Aspergers. I didn’t really care about the plot, but the portrayal myself. I cried for the same reasons. My wife only lasted about ten minutes, she couldn’t handle it, it was too painful for her to watch.

KDoloNo Gravatar November 27, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Explain to me how this is an unconventional romance in terms of film? How is this movie not the same as, only worse than and a total ripoff of, As Good As It Gets?

sundayNo Gravatar May 1, 2011 at 12:01 am

My grandson Baby ‘J’ has Asperger ( A form of autisim) he is 7 years old! After watching the movie ADAM… I cried thinking of my my baby J in his twenties all alone! he is so much like Adam! holding his ears, tempers and then silence. Mind blindness is a common thing. I always say.. a question with a question … less threatening to him. Josh.. may I have a hug? Rather then give me a hug~ He is so smart though watching and reading beyond his years! shoot.. I’m 41 and dont understand his logical/ intelect!

Spoiler alert …

I was very sad to see that Adam and Beth did not stay together! How can that inspire ones soul? I understand… the walk one should take is alone… but what romance? Beth is selfish!!!!! Not a great ending to say the least!!!! Love is unconditional, all she cared about was normal!!! What is NORMAL??? UGH

sundayNo Gravatar May 1, 2011 at 12:54 am

dont get me wrong ADAM portreyed what I see everyday… I luved the movie.. just hard to deal with the outcome!

TreyNo Gravatar April 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Meh, kind of a tired formula that hearkens back to both ‘Marty’ and a Cliff Robertson film whose title escapes me now but all go..

“Beautiful young lady falls in love with seriously ‘damaged’ ( in some fashion ) male.”

Reverse the roles and how often do you see movies done about beautiful young men falling in love with seriously ‘damaged’ ( in some way ) females. How often?

Let’s see…how about Brad Pitt as a normal guy who falls head over heals for a mentally handicapped Meryl Streep?

Don’t trip over yourselves getting to the theater now LOL

( give yourself 2 stars if you immediatley thought of Harold and Maude though Maude wasn’t ‘damaged’ when Harold clearly was ( because of course no normal male would want an old woman, right? LOL )

Ah, the dependability of Hollywood hypocrisy.

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