Turning a book into a film presents the adapter with a fundamental problem. How do we represent internal narration and monologue on the screen. The usual method is to not bother, and just be content with cramming the screen with the action. But what if you have a book that does not have much action? I’ve not read it, but from the film version I am pretty sure that Young Adam is a book with a lot of internal voice. It certainly has not got much action.

It is a film of two halves, as directed by Douglas Mackenzie, who also helmed the worst film I have seen this year: The Last Great Wilderness. It is a massive improvement on that pile of tripe, there is real power in the central performance by the end. This is where the two halves come in. The half where we are shown Joe (Ewan MacGregor) and slowly shown how this cheeky but haunted chap is really just a bit of a philandering cunt is pretty unengaging. It centres on an affair which you know will be discovered so you wait, fingers over the eyes, for the eventually rather anti-climatic reveal. The fact that Peter Mullan’s character does not beat the crap out of Joe is the moment the film changes. This is also the moment you get the feeling that this is going somewhere interesting.

Actually it doesn’t even get that interesting. But the potential that any moment Joe may make the decision that would be morally right but might end his life keeps you gripped. The fact that there is enough ambiguity about Joe leads the second half a real tension. One perhaps spoiled by the ending. But nevertheless Ewan wanders tortured though this part of the film as I would imagine the book cranks off pages and pages of tortured internal dialogue. The film probably never reaches the desired depth of the book, but convinces us that often people aren’t always bad, shit happens to bad people, and that the bad guys may sometimes torture themselves with their very badness.

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