The synopsis of Adam on the San Francisco Jewish Film Fest website makes you think the film is a hackneyed Jew/gentile rom-com. Max Mayer’s film is much more intricate and genuine than that.

You see, Adam (Hugh Dancy) has Asperger syndrome, and that’s really no secret after five minutes observing his character interact with others. Beth (Rose Byrne) moves into Adam’s building, and it’s awkward from the get-go. But there’s chemistry–or a gravitational pull, as the astronomy-buff Adam might imagine it. Their friendship slowly works into a romance, but as Adam deals with the loss of his father (and caregiver), Beth must deal with her father’s (Peter Gallagher) indictment.

Adam doesn’t dumb down the issue of AS. Clearly, it can be an obstacle in the relationship, but for the most part it allows for a relationship with a lot of communication. The portrayal of the relationship succeeds in part because Dancy captures the nervous tics, the awkward social interactions of a typical aspy with honesty rather than dramatic flair. Sometimes, you’ll get a chuckle from Adam’s social faux pas, but you’d be hard-pressed to say the film is comical. “Touching” would be a better description.

The parents (mostly Beth’s dad) are a little iffy about the relationship but not because Adam isn’t Jewish. In fact, the Jewish identity hardly comes into play at all unless you count a reference to Albert Einstein as Jew enough for you. It’s a case of “Jewish because I said so,” according to program director Nancy K. Fishman.

There won’t be another showing of Adam at the SFJFF, but Fox Searchlight has picked up the film. IMDb shows a limited theatrical release in Los Angeles and New York City starting July 29.

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