Adam the First (2024)

Adam the First Review

Adam the First

What’s the Tale?

14-year-old Adam (Oakes Fegley) lives with James (David Duchovny) and Mary (Kim Jackson Davis), who tell him they are not his parents but still care for him, in a trailer deep in the forest. He’s been taught how to hunt and trap game, ride horses, shoot pistols, and even drive a car. When this is compromised by attackers, James gives him a list of three “Jacob Wattersons,” one of whom is Adam’s biological father. So Adam hits the road. The first Jacob (Eric Hanson) is behind bars. The second (Jason Dowies) is a modest farmer. The third (Larry Pine) is an artist who knows something about what isn’t on Adam’s list.

Film Review

It’s not groundbreaking stuff, but you’ll certainly root for the goodhearted young lad played by Oakes Fegley all the way. David Duchovny co-stars.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, you and your loved one can cozy up for a quiet little indie movie that might leave you shedding a tear or two. Veteran actor David Duchovny is all over the film’s promotional trailer, but the real star here is Oakes Fegley. You’ll recognize him from hit films like The Fabelmans and Pete’s Dragon, and in Adam the First he looks a bit more grown-up, playing a troublemaker but with a good heart. It’s quite possible you’ll enjoy this sweet Mark Twain-type tale that won’t exactly rattle cinema as we know it, but the performances by a handful of familiar faces are solid and thought-provoking, especially seeing someone like Duchovny try something different from those iconic roles you know him from.

Duchovny is lightyears away from his Californication persona, but he’s always welcome on the big screen, even if it’s just for a brief period of time. His fatherly character James who just can’t seem to find his shirt reveals big news to young Adam not long after the movie kicks off. It’s a clever little storytelling technique by writer-director Irving Franco, who also composed the musical score for this latest feature of his. If you’ve seen the trailer for Adam the First, you know that James is not Adam’s actual father despite how it all may look. You’d think a big reveal like this wouldn’t come until later on, so we’re effectively left thinking, “OK, what’s Adam to do with said bombshell?”

Once the actual plot kicks into high gear, bookworms might be reminded of Have You Seen Luis Velez?, an acclaimed novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde where a young boy journeys across his city of residence looking for a man by the name in the book’s title. He meets Luis after Luises, some wealthy and some poor, hoping each time they might be the right guy. Similarly, young Adam (Fegley) in this new indie drama has a list of three “Jacobs,” each of whom could be his biological parent. Even Jim Jarmusch’s 2005 comedy-drama Broken Flowers comes to mind here with Bill Murray’s lead character Don going in search of both his son and previous lover (whoever that may be) who sent Don the anonymous letter to kick off his own journey.

In Adam the First, a scary first-act sequence involves authorities coming into James’ tucked-away cottage, which might also remind moviegoers of the first act of Amazon Studios’ The Marsh King’s Daughter with Daisy Ridley, who plays a character that is unknowingly held hostage in the woods by a sort of mysterious father figure. Adam goes on his own little odyssey across the country that would make Mark Twain proud; he smokes cigarettes, shoplifts and runs from the cops as he moves from address to address. He’s no perfect kid and it’s better for the audience this way, with Fegley effectively creating a more relatable, humane character.

From Strip Clubs to Lonely Diners

Sure, it’s low-level thrills across this quiet little feature – but that doesn’t mean Adam’s quest doesn’t take him to a wide variety of places. He even picks up one of those prison phones and looks into the eyes of a convict named Jacob (Eric Hanson), who grows increasingly agitated as to why this young man is trying to claim him to be his dad. Hanson’s heated yet heartfelt performance in this hard-hitting little cameo sticks with you. But the “fun” doesn’t stop at the prison — Adam makes friends at a strip club and even finds himself participating in some sort of speed networking event where guests pitch their businesses to one another in rapid succession.

On that note: Look out for perhaps the strongest performance of all — at least when it comes to adults — T.R. Knight, whom MAX subscribers will recognize from The Flight Attendant (and who has starred in many other TV shows). Knight shines in Adam The First as yet another Jacob candidate for young Adam to track down … no spoilers here, but Knight’s subdued yet emotionally stunning moment speaks volumes about what he could do with future dramatic features. And Fegley keeps up with heavy hitters like him – there are a lot of young performers out there who fall victim to over-acting, but not Fegley. He’s got a bright career ahead of him and Adam The First is yet another powerful starring vehicle that shows the wide range of emotions he can capture: anger, heartbreak … and even some quirky humor along the way.

Adam The First is now playing in U.S. theaters from Electric Entertainment.

Is It Any Good?

This drama can often be shallow or underwritten (and at times exasperating), but it always held by a sincere heart and strong lead performance. It begins strongly with James taking young Adam into the woods for a talk, telling him he’s not their biological son for the first time in his life. Life in the woods seems to set Adam up for some fish-out-of-water adventures, since he knows so little about how people actually live, but his first act on the road is to hold up a gun shop apparently tricking the most clueless gun shop proprietor in history. He uses his gun later to hitch a ride, but quickly it’s forgotten, and we’re asked to forgive him for his violent threats. (Near the very end of the movie, he commits another baffling quasi-illegal act leaving a dead body and not telling anyone.)

The movie tells enough vignette-style stories that it becomes clear which Jacobs won’t end up being Adam’s dad, but by the time it reaches its conclusion, it throws in some truly odd if not wholly ineffective scenes as he approaches his final destination. One takes place at a business convention where men in suits are given one minute each to “pitch” each other; Adam sits in and uses this time to figure out which person in the room is his dad. A final scene includes a karaoke performance that’s both strange and bittersweet. Adam The First is an odd patchwork of a movie, but Fegley’s touching nuanced performance embracing danger as well as sorrow and his work opposite actors as good as Duchovny and Pine make it slightly more rewarding than disappointing.

Watch Adam the First For Free On Gomovies.

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