Young Adam (2004)



Critic Consensus: A grim mood piece with good performances from the leads.

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.

Rating: R (for strong sexual content, some disturbing behavior and language)
Genre: Drama, Art House & International, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By: David Mackenzie
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 14, 2004
Box Office: $0.7M
Sony Pictures Classics - Official Site



as Daniel Gordon

as Bob M'bussi

as Freight Supervisor

as Bowler Hat Man

as Stall Woman

as Black Street Pub Man

as Black Street Pub Man

as Black Street Pub Man

as Black Street Pub Man

as Black Street Pub Man

as Black Street Pub Man

as Black Street Pub Man

as Black Street Barman

as Prosecutor

as Forensics Expert

as Cathie's Flatmate

as Jury Foreman

as Mrs. Gordon

as Clerk of the Court

as Defence Counsel

as Witness

as Blind Man
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Critic Reviews for Young Adam

All Critics (130) | Top Critics (37)

Whether you're talking about Young Adam the movie or young Adam the character, neither is very likable.

Full Review… | June 10, 2004
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

Young Adam haunts like a loyalty betrayed or a secret never revealed.

Full Review… | May 28, 2004
Toronto Star
Top Critic

The narrative, with its provocative flashbacks, is just interesting enough to propel the movie forward.

Full Review… | May 28, 2004
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

A movie that seems to think it's more interesting than it really is.

May 28, 2004
Detroit News
Top Critic

Watching this film, one gets the sense of a once-arresting book that couldn't get arrested today.

Full Review… | March 27, 2014

nudity is perhaps the only intriguing element in this ponderous and torpid story about Joe (McGregor), a young drifter who takes work on a barge operated by a husband and wife (Peter Mullan and Tilda Swinton) after the mysterious death of his ex-girlfrien

Full Review… | May 5, 2009

Audience Reviews for Young Adam


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 Smith

Super Reviewer


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 Kwak

Super Reviewer

A well appreciated film all around it seems, yet I found the story to be very slow moving. The interest no doubt, heightened with the nudity and bed-hopping of Ewan Mcgregor?s character, whilst the story itself is an interesting one, I feel this could have been condensed somewhat and was very underwhelmed by it?s ending.

Lady D'arbanville

Super Reviewer

Young Adam Quotes

– Submitted by Frances H (2 years ago)

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