Picture 1I had the pleasure of attending a screening of the film Adam on August 18th, 2009.  This film, written and directed by Max Mayer, tells the story of an awkward and unusual relationship between two neighbors: Adam Raki, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and Beth Buchwald, who aspires to write children’s books.  Adam is one of three new films being released featuring individuals with this complex and mysterious disorder considered to be an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The film opens with what could easily be considered every parent of a child with disabling condition’s worst nightmare: the funeral of his parent and caretaker.  Thus, my initial reaction came not as a psychiatrist, but rather as the parent of a child on the autism spectrum:  “I cannot die—who will look after my child?”  This reaction is understandable  given the film’s remarkable job of depicting the reality of day-to-day living with this difficult condition: the need for routine and structure, problems adapting to change, communication challenges arising from rigidity of language, as well as other problems interacting with the “neurotypical” world—including the benefits of having a trusted advocate and interpreter to facilitate these interactions.

Hugh Dancy does a wonderful job portraying Adam Raki: complete with his fixation on astronomy, awkward social interactions, and tender gestures.  He depicts many of the physical attributes common to those with Asperger’s syndrome, including lack of appropriate eye contact as well as other automatisms, with absolute accuracy.  Dancy is able to capture not only these differences, but also the courage, subtle tenderness, and humanity that enables the audience to not only accept him, but to hope for him as well.  The neighbor Beth, beautifully acted by Rose Byrne, is portrayed as incredibly kind, patient, and understanding—yet seems too idealistic to be believed at times.

The story is insightful, engaging, and entertaining; it has the potential to bring awareness of this condition to audiences that hopefully may lead to a greater understanding of, compassion for, and acceptance of individuals with this disorder.  Adam captures the hope and possibilities for those who are affected by this condition in a very accessible, balanced, and believable manner.  While Adam unfortunately does not seem destined for blockbuster status, it is easy to see why it won the Alfred P. Sloane award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.  I highly recommend this movie to those with an interest in Autism Spectrum disorders as well as to those just looking for a tender, romantic movie.

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