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Review: ‘Adam’

A sensitive film of much charm, “Adam” stars Hugh Dancy in the title role as a brilliant young electronic engineer. He’s nice-looking but awfully uptight. Not long after the death of his father, with whom he shared a Manhattan apartment, Adam meets new neighbor Beth (Rose Byrne), who’s beautiful and outgoing. Intrigued by Adam, Beth gradually attempts to break through his perplexing shell.

In time, she gains Adam’s trust and he at last explains that he has Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. He reveals his difficulty in discerning what others are thinking and feeling, his social unease and need for absolute honesty from others. He also admits an attraction to her. Beth, who’s just accepted a teaching job at a nearby private school to support her dream of writing children’s books, realizes the attraction is mutual but proceeds with caution; she’s just experienced a painful breakup and realizes that Adam presents a unique challenge. It’s impossible to predict how things will turn out for Adam and Beth, but it’s clear that in one way or another they will have considerable impact upon each other.

“Adam” is a great-looking, beguiling film with its burnished Manhattan settings and lovely score. It is the second film from theater director Max Mayer and, to his credit, it is not in the least theatrical in either Mayer’s script or direction.

Subtlety and nuance mark both the film’s dialogue and performances. It’s hard to see how Dancy and Byrne could be any better, and that goes for Frankie Faison, a wise, supportive friend to Adam, and for Peter Gallagher as Beth’s dashing -- but deceptive -- father and Amy Irving as her elegant, resilient mother. Gallagher’s and Irving’s roles grow in importance as the film progresses, adding crucial dimension.

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“Adam” is a most welcome summer treat.

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‘Adam’

MPAA rating: PG for thematic material, sexual content and language

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Playing: At the ArcLight in Hollywood and the Landmark in West L.A.

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