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Originally published August 13, 2009 at 3:15 PM | Page modified August 13, 2009 at 3:15 PM

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Movie review

'Adam': a love story with limitations

"Adam": Rose Byrne and Hugh Dancy find a gentle, tentative chemistry in Max Mayer's love story about a writer attracted to an autistic young man.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2.5 stars

"Adam," with Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving. Written and directed by Max Mayer. 95 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic material, sexual content and language. Harvard Exit

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For much of its first hour, writer/director Max Mayer's "Adam" is one of the year's more endearing love stories.

Rose Byrne and Hugh Dancy bring a gentle, tentative chemistry to a very fragile couple: Beth, a Manhattan writer on the rebound, and Adam, an electronics engineer who is limited by a form of autism, Asperger syndrome.

As long as they're taking small steps toward a relationship, the movie is on solid ground. Mayer's script delights in setting up moments of trust and insight between his actors. Dancy, in particular, demonstrates a surprising depth. Byrne matches him by gradually adjusting Beth's sense of vulnerability.

She knows she's courting a handful but senses he might be worth it. His anti-social tendencies at parties may be a chore, but she hopes she's up to the challenge.

Too bad Mayer's script takes an unnecessary detour, introducing Beth's parents (Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving) and a subplot about their legal troubles. Still, there are moments to remember: Beth's casual introduction to the planetarium show that is Adam's apartment; the squirmy confrontations Adam has with his well-meaning boss; a nighttime visit with Central Park's raccoons.

Perhaps, as Beth blurts out at one point, this is "not prime relationship material." But that lack of conventionality is an essential part of the movie's charm.

John Hartl:

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