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If you a little fuzzy on just what Asperger’s Syndrome is, don’t feel bad—even the experts argue over whether it constitutes a disorder on its own or if it is simply a variety of autism in which the person who has it is comparatively functional in the social world. On a scale of movie characters, the title character in Adam (Hugh Dancy) is closer to James Bond than, say, Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man or even Peter Sellers in Being There; he holds down a job, and looks no different from anyone else you might pass on the street.

His nature comes out when, adjusting to life after the death of his father, apparently his only family, Adam becomes attracted to Beth (Rose Byrne), a new neighbor in his Manhattan apartment building. Perhaps because she is also an only child and from a sheltered, well-to-do background, she puts his mildly odd behavior down to eccentricity. But as the attraction becomes mutual, he explains to her the reason why he doesn’t respond to casual social interactions like others do, and why he doesn’t seem able to shut up when he gets to talking about subjects that interest him, particularly astronomy.

Although Adam has been warmly received by the Asperger’s community, the syndrome isn’t really the focus of the movie. Debuting writer-director Max Mayer, whose background is in theater, uses Asperger’s as an extreme way of illustrating the difficulty all new romantic relationships face, that of needing to learn what makes another person tick.

In other words, best intentions aside, at heart it’s a romantic drama with a frosting of TV movie disease-of-the-week. Perhaps the most notable thing about it is the fairy-tale Manhattan where it unfolds. The movie looks like it could have been filmed any time since 1978, and depicts a city where people live in apartments with enough room for all their stuff, get off work at 5pm, and never seem to be in a rush. Add the achingly sincere musical score and the subconscious dislocation that comes from a British actor and an Australian actress playing New Yorkers, and Adam becomes a movie that seems to have escaped from another, not unpleasant dimension.

m. faust

Watch the trailer for Adam

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