January 27, 2020

Review: Adam; A Valentine’s Day Astronomy Flick!

(Editor’s note; this Valentine’s Day weekend, love is in the air here at Astroguyz HQ as we review a quirky but astronomical-themed modern day romance flick; read on;)

Not all great astronomy movies need be Sci-Fi flicks. Once in a very great while, we unearth an offbeat film with enough astronomical flair that it warrants mention to you, the unsuspecting science public. Such is the case with the indie flick Adam, written and directed by Max Mayer. We recently caught this tale of love in a time of astronomy via Netflix, and were thoroughly amused and impressed. Adam is best described as Rain Man or I Am Sam turned science-romance tale. The setting is Manhattan, and Adam, played by Hugh Dancy, is a brilliant young man who is afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome. Adam has a fascination with astronomy, but often has problems connecting with everyday interpersonal relations. The death of his father accentuates this, as does the impeding loss of his job. Enter Beth, played by Rose Byrne, (of, amoung other things, Star Wars Episode II fame) a school teacher who has just moved in next door.  Through a series of awkward relationship mishaps, Adam introduces Beth to the universe of astronomy, and she in turn reveals the world of humanity to him, just beyond his front door.

The film was released in 2009 at the Sundance Festival to critical acclaim, and won the Alfred P. Sloan prize for a feature film with science as the main theme. The film highlights the condition of Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism were an individual may be highly functioning and even brilliant in a given field (such as astronomy) but perhaps lacks the social skills many of us take for granted. Asperger’s is a very recent classification; it didn’t even become fully recognized as a separate diagnosis until 1992. Looking back at history, one wonders how many greats such as Einstein or Edison may have suffered from it, although we’ll never be quite sure. Are a disproportionate number of Aspergers sufferers drawn to fields such as astronomy? Does its lengthy lists of tables and data appeal to their thirst for order, or do they simply find solace in the predictability of the universe while being mystified by the actions of their fellow man? Adam also points out that there may be many varieties of human intelligence… who is smarter, the high school nerd that knows pi to the nth degree, or the prom queen who can navigate the often blurry lines of social Darwinism?

A certain melancholy chord echoes through Adam, although be assured, this is a chick flick, and the guy does get the girl in the end… or at least semi- gets how girls function! Watch for some scenes from the Mt. Wilson observatory at the end, as well as a very cool children’s book on raccoons living in Central Park.

Ultimately, Adam learns to accept change in both his job and life, something we all have trouble with from time to time. He also finally realizes how to relate his passion for astronomy to the everyday public… although you may not want to ask him for advice at a cocktail party on buying a telescope! Adam also realizes that while such esoteric concepts as interferometry may be fascinating, sometimes it’s fun to just stargaze for the sheer beauty of the universe…and that we are all in this big cosmic gig together.

Do make an effort to track down Adam as the recommended Astroguyz sure-to-light-the-fires Valentine’s Day flick this weekend as part of a cool dinner-chick flick-star gazing combo, or just a way to perhaps humanize a Sheldon Cooper-esque personality which is just barely in restraint. This weekend, you’ve got Mars high in the east, the ISS and shuttle are currently in their mutual orbital embrace, and Jupiter, Venus, and a slender crescent waxing moon are low in the west at dusk… a perfect backdrop for a new relationship, or a rekindling of an old one. Or how about a visit to a local observatory, star party, or planetarium for a fun, off-beat date? Just remember to leave that 20” Dob at home, and words like “syzygy,” “proton-proton chain,” and talk of the “Casmir effect” are probably no-go’s for the evening. But do be sure to brush up on your astronomical legends and lore for best effect…

And that’s about it for the advice for the lovelorn here at Astroguyz… be sure to follow our adventures at the Johnson Space center via Twitter (we’re @Astroguyz) as we head off for Houston next week for the JSCtweetup!


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