Adam Raki (Hugh Dancy) has Asperger Syndrome, which falls along the autism spectrum of disorders. Those with Asperger’s are labeled high-functioning autistics because, while social impairment exists in the form of limited empathy and deficiencies in nonverbal communication, minor adjustments to everyday routines can result in relatively independent social engagement.
Of course, in Adam’s case, we enter his life as he struggles to deal with the death of his father and the readjustments necessary to continue living and working in New York City with little more than the aid of Harlan (Frankie Faison), his father’s best friend and Adam’s new caretaker.
Further complications arise when Adam meets Beth (Rose Byrne), a new neighbor and potential love interest who is caught up in her own set of adulthood transitions involving her father (Peter Gallagher).
Adam’s physical attractiveness confuses things for Beth and those around him, forcing a near constant reassessment of Adam and the environment. It also challenges audiences as we watch Dancy, attentive to the nuances of his performance. Is he — using the language of Tropic Thunder — going “full retard,” using the stereotypical catalogue of tics to create a familiar character, or is he helping us to redefine the look and feel of this syndrome and how we might relate to it?
The film aspires to this level of awareness and understanding, but narrative awkwardness and good intentions prevent Adam and the other characters from becoming fully human. Grade: C-