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YOUNG ADAM

A Scottish drifter who wants to be a novelist takes a job on a barge traveling between Glasgow and Edinburgh and strikes erotic sparks with his boss’s wife. One morning the body of a nearly nude woman surfaces in the canal, and, as we soon learn, this is not the first time the drifter has seen the woman.

CAST: Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Peter Mullan, Emily Mortimer, Therese Bradley, Ewan Stewart, Stuart McQuarrie, Pauline Turner, Alan Cooke, Rory McCann

DIRECTOR: David Mackenzie

"Ewan McGregor has a jumpy ferocity that makes him perfect for the role. Even sitting still, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette or reading a tattered paperback, he radiates a feverish, slightly dangerous intensity, a charisma disproportionate to Joe's modest, straitened surroundings…In the end, Joe's sexuality, while exhibited with quite a bit more explicitness than the old movies would permit, is also what makes ‘Young Adam’ feel most dated. Its view of male narcissism, as expressed through erotic need, is not only uncritical but also pretentious…Joe is an intellectual construct as much as a person, and the people whose lives he wrecks are moral abstractions." --A.O. Scott, The New York Times

"The movie is another showcase for the underappreciated McGregor, who disappears into his character so discreetly that, even as his face lets us track Joe’s every thought, you never feel you’re watching a Performance. He’s not a self-serious Method man like Sean Penn, whose work seems designed to make us think, ‘What a powerful piece of acting!’…a portrait of the artist as a selfish young bastard, a man who thinks the world around him is soiled, and finds it just terrible, but wants to believe that, in the final analysis, it has nothing to do with him." --John Powers, LA Weekly

"Something lupine and predatory skulks at the edges of Ewan McGregor's screen persona…McGregor's latent menace leaves a phantom watermark on blank-page Joe, who uses and discards his lovers and employers as affectlessly as he does his omnipresent cigarettes. (If Joe isn't smoking, he must be fucking.)…the movie's fiercest assets lie in its formidable cast: Emily Mortimer (as Joe's wheedling ex-flame, Cathie), McGregor, and especially Swinton (above, with McGregor) are as frank and fearless with their NC-17 naked bodies as Mackenzie is uncompromised in conveying Trocchi's sulfurous purview on labor and lust to the screen…‘Young Adam’ doesn't quite know how to take its leave; it tapers off like a curling cigarette trail, but it lingers like a ghost." --Jessica Winter, The Village Voice

"With its arthouse cast, hipster credentials and ominous atmosphere, ‘Young Adam’ never bothers to reach for real significance…the story begins with the discovery of one dead body and ends with the specter of another. Things rarely pick up in between… sex scenes so frank, they earned an NC-17 rating. And yet, shot in the same grim, gritty style as the rest of the film, they're hardly more exciting than anything else. While Mackenzie sees poetry in the moody David Byrne score, the carefully shot wisps of smoke and the sullen stares, others may find only pretension." --Elizabeth Weitzman, The New York Daily News

"The fact that we see Cathie and Joe and Ella in full frontally-nude detail may be one of the reasons the MPAA saddled ‘Young Adam’ with the infamous NC-17 rating, thereby putting the film in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. What you should really know about writer-director David Mackenzie’s unsparing adaptation of the late Alexander Trocchi’s cult novel is that it is brilliantly interpreted by its four leads—Ewan McGregor as the drifter, Tilda Swinton and Peter Mullan as the victims of his manipulation, and Emily Mortimer as the lady of mystery…even at its most unnerving, it is a richly atmospheric, perversely satisfying drama." --Guy Flatley, Moviecrazed

"Everything about this adaptation shows it to be a labour of love…It's a dreamy, disquieting study of sexual tension and guilty secrets. The movie drifts downriver, like the tatty barge on which it's set, towards its finale at a sensational murder trial…It has its faults -- implausibility and absurdity in its sexual imbroglios and a narrative structure that tends towards the elusive. But this is really impressive, accomplished work from Mackenzie, who is showing himself to be a natural film-maker…For my money, this is the best performance of Ewan McGregor's career by a long way: subtle and complex." --Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

"This noirish character study starring Ewan McGregor doesn't glamorize or idealize sex or set out to titillate…David Mackenzie's assured film is less a thriller than an open-ended exploration of Joe's amoral behavior… Besides terrific performances, it boasts terrific cinematography by Giles Nuttgens that contrasts stunningly beautiful and grimly ugly Scottish landscapes -- complementing the hunky Joe's ugly soul, which manifests itself in a truly nasty sex scene involving pudding, catsup and Cathie."--Lou Lumenick, The New York Post

"Steamy sex and the sight of Ewan McGregor's dick -- he's having it on with married Tilda Swinton -- got this otherwise tepid movie, directed by David Mackenzie, slapped with an NC-17. The adultery and murder that follow when McGregor signs on to work for Swinton and her husband (Peter Mullan), on a barge navigating the waterways of Glasgow, elicit only stifled yawns." --Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

"Rich atmospherics and an all-star British cast make this a superior melodrama if you can handle the heavy-breathing sex scenes." --David Sterritt, The Christian Science Monitor

"Portraying an emotionally amputated protagonist without either soliciting sympathy or alienating your audience is no mean trick… David Mackenzie, in his second feature as writer-director, takes his own route but still hits the target…Mackenzie handles his material with a light touch and intimate attention to physical detail: the sense of grimy, sweaty flesh, especially in the sex scenes on the barge, is startlingly vivid." --Philip Kemp, Sight and Sound

"What David Mackenzie really wants to explore is the idea of original sin, and even if his methods are suspect (I'm not sure how a violent sex scene involving homemade custard and ketchup helps us get back to the Garden) he has succeeded in creating an interesting study of self-immolation…McGregor, delivering one of his strongest acting performances, displays the raw sexuality and easy charm that would attract seemingly every woman in Glasgow, while nailing the self-loathing that fuels Joe's compulsions…Mackenzie's movie may come up short allegorically, but it gets the torpid disaffection just right." -- Glenn Whipp, The Los Angeles Times

"Despite the noirish love triangle, barge-bound claustrophobia, and hints of murder-mystery, ‘Young Adam’ isn’t a thriller. Instead Mackenzie and his solid cast craft a mood-piece character study of the amoral, perpetually priapic Joe – who screws every adult female character with a speaking part…Unfortunately, the wall-to-wall sex turns out to be the most distinctive feature of ‘Young Adam – a slightly depressing retreat into ‘professional’ film-making after the ragged delights of Mackenzie’s ‘The Last Great Wilderness.’ This follow-up, while much more even, sustained and stylish, could do with a little of that picture’s anything-goes energy." --Neil Young, Jigsaw Lounge