Young Adam

After the near complete non-issue of releasing The Dreamers as NC-17, people realized that it could in fact be a viable option. It came out, and it wasn't that big of a deal. The hubbub surrounding the rating itself was more interesting than the film itself. Yes, Ewan McGregor's schlong makes an appearance for a few scant seconds, but this is not the reason that Young Adam received an NC-17. Weirdly enough, it is a scene of oral sex, that takes place in near-darkness between McGregor and Tilda Swinton, both of whom are basically fully clothed, that the MPAA deemed too long. There is no reason this film should be NC-17. There is nudity and sex, but it is nothing worse than what R rated films receive. The only thing that this rating will do is give Young Adam, based on the novel by Alexander Trocchi, a higher profile.

The film itself is relentlessly bleak and dour, and lumbers along at about the same speed as the barge it takes place upon. Joe (McGregor, Big Fish, Down With Love) is working for Les (Peter Mullan, The Magdalene Sisters, Session 9) and Ella (Swinton, The Statement, Adaptation), who own the barge. The days are pretty dull and routine, as the three move cargo around from port to port. The discovery of a dead woman in the water effects some profound changes on Joe, who is still dwelling on his last relationship with Cathie (Emily Mortimer, Formula 51, Lovely & Amazing). Director/adapter David Mackenzie (The Last Great Wilderness, Marcie's Dowry) flashes back and forth between the present and the past, contrasting Joe's relationship with Emily to the affair he begins with Ella.

Joe recognizes that there is little love left between Les and Ella, and he makes his move towards Ella, who is initially reluctant, but soon very amenable towards his advances. But this is not a relationship of love. It feels like one borne out of boredom, or even desperation. Joe and Ella are both grasping for something to remind them that they are alive. They may eventually act like they love each other, but this is just superficial. The dead woman affects Joe profoundly, and causes him to reexamine his relationship with Cathie, one that began tenderly but, as Young Adam progresses, becomes increasingly bitter.

It's pretty obvious why the body shakes Joe up so much, and Mackenzie doesn't really try to hide who it is. The big mystery is how this happened, and the viewer knows that once the flashbacks catch up to the present, Joe will have come to a sense of closure, since he'll have figured out whatever he needs to do to move on. Everything is pretty depressing, but it should be, so Mackenzie did all right there. Where he could have done better is in having the audience feel the sense of gloom that his characters, especially Ella and Joe feel. They are both suffering and looking for some way out of it, and Swinton and McGregor look suitably glum for the majority of the film. They do not get the viewer to feel the sense of isolation that they do, so Young Adam then becomes watching depressing people on screen, which isn't that fun.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 39 minutes, Rated NC-17 for some explicit sexual content.

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