Claudia Leisinger


Dir: David Mackenzie
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Peter Mullan, Emily Mortimer
Out: September 26th 2003


Joe (McGregor), a young drifter, helps discover the body of a drowned woman in a Glasgow canal, but as he begins an affair with his boss’s wife (Swinton), it becomes clear he knows more about the corpse that he’ll admit.

Ewan McGregor claims that recent British films have ‘lost the plot’. Too many ‘cheesy romantic comedies’ and a lack of ‘risky, edgy stuff,’ apparently. Rich criticism, some might say, from a man recently so hitched to George Lucas and Jerry Bruckheimer that he dropped his own UK-based production company, Natural Nylon. So, finally pitching up for work back home, does young Ewan really practise what he preaches?

The answer is yes, and then some. Adapted from fellow countryman and cult Beat writer Alexander Trocchi’s dark, introspective 50’s novel, ‘Young Adam’ is an oblique, existential character study of a genuine anti-hero. Too often the term is bandied about to describe a boy scout missing a couple of merit badges. McGregor’s Joe is a genuinely amoral, predatory, possibly murderous loner who can only express himself through sex, abusing his girlfriend Cathie (Mortimer) then cuckolding his boss (Mullan) because, well, he can. ‘It wasn’t personal,’ he tells him. With Joe, nothing is.

The copious, explicit sex – especially the soon-to-be-infamous ‘custard scene’ - will no doubt get tabloid tongues salivating (with McGregor’s return to his pre-‘Star Wars’ penchant for waving his own lightsabre around) though they’re more about characterisation than titillation. Sophomore director Mackenzie accentuates the grim unwashed blues and sullied greys of Glasgow’s coal-encrusted 1950’s canals, cleverly evoking the gritty social films of that era. Swinton and Mortimer confirm their standing as two of the bravest British actresses around, but suppressing his trademark garrulous, leading man charm, this is McGregor’s film, a career peak performance in a risky, edgy, enthralling film. More, please.

* * * * (four stars)

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