Young Adam


Young Adam

Critics Consensus

A grim mood piece with good performances from the leads.



Total Count: 123


Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,385
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Young Adam Photos

Movie Info

The corpse of a young woman is found floating in a canal by a drifter working on a barge traveling between Glasgow and Edinburgh. His relationship with the dead woman gradually unfolds as claustrophobic tensions develop between him and the couple with whom he shares the cramped barge.


Ewan Stewart
as Daniel Gordon
Alan Cooke
as Bob M'bussi
Ian Hanmore
as Freight Supervisor
Arnold Brown
as Bowler Hat Man
Meg Fraser
as Stall Woman
Stuart Bowman
as Black Street Pub Man
Wullie Brennan
as Black Street Pub Man
Rony Bridges
as Black Street Pub Man
John Kazek
as Black Street Pub Man
Duncan McHardy
as Black Street Pub Man
Stewart Porter
as Black Street Pub Man
Malcolm Shields
as Black Street Pub Man
Tam Dean Burn
as Black Street Barman
Michael Carter
as Prosecutor
Matthew Zajac
as Forensics Expert
Mhairi Steenbock
as Cathie's Flatmate
John Comerford
as Jury Foreman
Anne Marie Timoney
as Mrs. Gordon
John Yule
as Clerk of the Court
Sandy Neilson
as Defence Counsel
Des Hamilton
as Witness
Eddie Dahlstrom
as Blind Man
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Critic Reviews for Young Adam

All Critics (123) | Top Critics (37) | Fresh (77) | Rotten (46)

Audience Reviews for Young Adam

  • Oct 29, 2013
    Dark British drama written and directed by David Mackenzie based on the 1954 novel of the same name by Alexander Trocchi is not something to watch for happy occasions. That is why I decided to watch it early in the morning when everyone is asleep. The film is set in Scotland in 1954 where shiftless young drifter Joe Taylor works on a barge which operates from Glasgow, on the River Clyde. He shares the cramped on-board living quarters with its operators, Les and Ella Gault, and their young son Jim. One day Joe and Les pull the body of a young woman, naked except for a petticoat, from the water. Via flashbacks, we learn Joe knew her, and scenes involving his relationship with office worker Cathie Dimly are juxtaposed with those set in the present time... It is very cleverly constructed film and holds the attention to the end, and the naturalistic acting has its own, considerable, power. Tilda Swinton's performance was outstanding and Ewan McGregor had no need for his easy charm - it was tough, it was rough... but both of them were perfect choice for a depressing film exuding hopelessness and inviting us to pity the characters! There was no desire to share in their tragic condition - the atmosphere was always in the mood of "they deserved it". Even when the storytelling looks disjointed, it was a wonderful job from David Mckenzie deliberately jumping back and forth in time without warning, so that the meaning of events and the connections among them emerge retrospectively. Created mood of unease and dislocation follows creepingly and persisting even after certain crucial mysteries are solved. The understated score (by David Byrne) was just adding to the whole experience of male narcissism, as expressed through erotic need. The camera work in this film is something many should learn from - precise and visually eye catching. Recommended for a quiet morning or night!
    Panta O Super Reviewer
  • Sep 07, 2010
    Make no mistake - this is an incredibly difficult watch. Grim, moody, and dry as a bleached bone, Young Adam feels enervated every step of the way. It's not exactly a picture of great rewards either; it's bursting with eroticism, but it seems mired in the personal miseries of its participants and the filming of the deeds is much less about titillation than naked, ugly ribaldry. In a way, Young Adam is a great actorly curio, putting a handful of brave performers in front of us and asking them to do some uncomfortable things. This is by far the most irrepressibly sad Tilda Swinton has ever been on film, underlined by an unexpected crying jag and some really misguided emotional decisions. Ewan McGregor doesn't seem terribly conservative about appearing nude in movies, but bumpin' and grindin' against no fewer than four of your female costars for any given amount of takes must get awkward at some point. Perhaps the greatest humiliation of all is spared for Emily Mortimer in a scene too bizarre and too vital to be spoiled. It's an absolutely excellent, vivid, repugnant character moment, something that tells us more about Joe than the sum of all his actions for the past hour had. Honestly, I wasn't really affected in any particular way by this movie. I was impressed, sure, and held effectively in thrall. I didn't feel like anything meaningful had been said or shown, though. In that way I guess it's a very modernist product, where the film's aim is a collective contract between the text, the auteur and the audience and we're left to disentangle the meaning from the events left to us. Young Adam is temporally neutral and extremely simple and would probably make the most sense to a viewer as a really, really depressing slice of life. It's got the whole "karma is dead" thing from Match Point going on, where injustice seems to be the name of the game and the characters resolve themselves to what befalls them. Kudos also to the film's sensibly chopped-and-screwed narrative structure, hanging its greatest mystery halfway through and letting the rest of the piece resolve itself as a character study. The performances are uniformly committed (though I think McGregor, able as he is, is miscast as a character who should be devoid of softness), the photography is nice in its low-budget austerity, and the cinematographic direction is suitably subtle and observant. I don't think the movie necessarily does anything WRONG, but it's too dour even for me, and ultimately uncritical of its characters. Again, the movie is a challenging watch, but sadly not for the right reasons.
    Drew S Super Reviewer
  • Jul 07, 2010
    young adam does aim highly but it fails silently in a quite mediocre way. okay, so it's about a young bargeman who discovers some dead woman's body by the barge with the elder bargeman who rents him the little room on the barge...then next thing is he's shagging the bargeman's wife then he follows his dick over every female he encounters as long as she's got a puss. it turns out the dead woman is his ex-girlfriend who just falls off to the bay after having some reminscent sex with him under the trunk, and it was very dark, so dark that he couldn't find her. then he throws all her accessories away then escape the scene. what follows next is another man takes the blame for him, and he doesn't have the nerve to stand out and take the risk of being accused of murder. he writes some anonymous letter to the judge about the truth, which doesn't help. this coward tosses away the last piece of remains of his former-lover and walks away. i watched it because of its notoriety of having notorious tagged as nc-17 due to the cunniligus scene and the frontal shot of ewan mcgregor's privacy (which has had its celluiod appearance in velvet goldmine and the pillow book)....and what's the point about young adam, who is a former writer-wanna-be, a bum who's been fed by his girlfriend but refuses to marry her, the guy who bestows his sex on every-woman who lay eyes on him as if it's some sort of gratuitous boy-scout services..maybe IF adam eventually goes to the police or the judge to reveal the truth...there might be some melodramatic tension added to redeem this picture. but he just sits there as a guilty bystander and let a man get hung. the path of the movie runs also quite slow. and the sex scenes are plain depsite in one scene, ewan macgregor tries to do what marlon brando does in "last tango in paris" to showcase some brutish magnetism by throwing a custard over naked woman then performs the the fonication behind...but the result is just you see a man tries to pose as brando-ish sexpot and it's not stirring at all. the sexs are menchanical without passion or antagonism but abscent-minded easy virtues. just absurd, and no spark. definitely not sexy. nc-17 is SO wasted on this film....even the trashy "show girl" has something more fun and watchable depsite its blatant cheesy stupidity.
    Veronique K Super Reviewer
  • Jun 03, 2009
    Young Adam is not a film of who did it, concerning Cathy's death. The story focuses on Joe, his view on life, his usual actions, and how he uses sex as a weapon while running from himself. After watching this film, you may actually feel bad for him, despite his wrongdoing throughout the whole film. Joe is obviously wanting to feel something in his life. Joe is a man on the run, from himself and from his conscience. He is rebellious, irresponsible and dangerous. To sum this up, this film is not a happy film but I found it dark. The ending was not clear enough but left me instead in thoughts. I can't exactly say what makes this film so interesting but the whole aspect of Joe's life will make many become interested in wanting to know this man.This is a film you'll either love-it or hate-it.
    Daisy M Super Reviewer

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