Young Adam

Year: 2003
Production Co: Film Council
Director: David Mackenzie
Writer: David Mackenzie
Cast: Ewen Macgregor, Tilda Swinton, Emily Mortimer, Peter Mullan
Depictions of sex in cinema are always tricky. Movies almost by default are about darkness, misery, danger, intrigue and not about laughter and happiness. But sex is almost always a jovial act - even if one partner doesn't really want to do it they're unlikely to have sex unless it's to please the person they're going to do it with.

Or am I wrong and most of the sex in the world is like it's depicted here - grotty, miserable people who appear not only not to like each other but not to like anything else either? I don't think so - sex is something that makes giggling, foolish little kids out of all, and giggling kids don't make cool movie characters. Dark, brooding hoodlums do.

So there's - as there is in so many other films with any sex in them - a stark disconnect between the this movie and the way things are. I've written before (and I will many times yet) about how I've never seen a realistic depiction of sex on screen where two people love each other and approach it with laughter and a sense of fun and satisfaction with no rape fantasy, guns, hatred, supermodels or a dead former lover haunting someone's heart.

With so much white, pasty flesh on display there's little else to recommend the movie either. It's a simple tale told in a non-linear way to mix up everyone's reactions and motivations as a young man (Macgregor) who works on a coal barge knows more than he lets on about the young woman's dead body he and his boss find in the canal one day.

It's got to do with his former lover (Mortimer, a fascinating blend of vixenish sexiness and pixieish cuteness), and he starts making indecent advances at his boss' on-board wife, the scraggy, miserable and thoroughly unattractive Tilda Swinton, and after several full frontal nude shots by all involved - including another Macgregor cock shot (see Trainspotting) - little has been said.

Director Mackenzie most probably wanted to say something about ordinary folk sleeping together who aren't supermodels from the movies, but he forgot that sex makes us essentially happy no matter how ugly or downtrodden we are, and the whole thing feels very forced and unrealistic as a result.

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