Young Adam (2003) – movie review

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Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Peter Mullan, Emily Mortimer, Jack McElhone

Director: David Mackenzie

Barges, sex, love and murder all feature in this film set in 1950’s Glasgow, Scotland. Joe (Ewan McGregor) is a wandering, philandering young man working on a barge for the owner, Les (Peter Mullan) and his wife Ella (Tilda Swinton). When Les and Joe fish out a body of a dead girl from the river, the police launch an investigation.

Joe used to see a girl called Cathy (Emily Mortimer) before he became a barge hand, who loved him but apparently Joe didn’t feel the same way. Now he turns his attention towards Ella despite the fact that Les and Ella are a couple. Unfortunately though Les is unable to perform certain duties so without his knowledge Joe helps himself to Ella in more ways than one against the backdrop of the ongoing police murder investigation.

Inevitably Les eventually finds out about Joe and Ella’s relationship and decides to leave. But Joe and Ella’s fling doesn’t last and she goes back to Les, so therefore Joe leaves the barge. Meanwhile a suspect has been arrested for the murder of the dead girl Joe and Les discovered and Joe follows the ensuing trial in a bizarre manner as if he knows more than he will admit.

Ewan McGregor excels in portraying his character’s lack of respect for almost everything and everyone and seemingly relishes all his sexual scenes. The ensemble cast all give outstanding performances and the direction is fine from David Mackenzie.

However the movie is let down by a story that is somewhat uncertain of whether it is a full-on study of an adulterous, disillusioned male or an awkward love story. Poor character and story development combined with a sense of a lack of a decent conclusion to the story all drag the movie down.

Consequently this is best viewed at home on TV, it’s just simply not engaging enough for the big screen. Perhaps it’s only for die-hard fans of Ewan McGregor and Alexander Trocchi, author of the novel.

3 out of 6 stars