Ewan McGregor in claustrophobic Scottish thriller

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Overall rating:

Score 4


Young Adam


David Mackenzie’s follow-up to The Last Great Wilderness is a largely faithful adaptation of Alexander Trocchi’s cult ’50s shot of Beat existentialism, Scottish-style. Bleak yet beautifully made, this brooding, narcotically slow take on guilt and sexual compulsion will stand, for those who get it, as one of the strongest British films of the year.

Ewan McGregor is better than he’s been in years as Joe, a drop-out with a past as murky as the canal he navigates. Not long after Joe and his boss Les (Peter Mullan) dredge the corpse of a young woman from the deep, Joe begins an affair with Les’ wife (Tilda Swinton), which flashbacks reveal is the latest in a series of loveless conquests. Ultimately, the fragmented story assembles into one slightly too-neat package, featuring Emily Mortimer as one of Joe’s previous lovers/victims. Despite its queasy eroticism, this is a film about (but not made with) misogyny, which makes it all the more uncomfortable to watch, despite the luminous, blue-and sepia-toned photography.