From Frankenstein to Star Wars, science fiction is always so much more poignant and relatable when the story tackles issues surrounding family, identity and morality. Netflix’s recent release, The Adam Project (2022), blends these elements with swashbuckling fight scenes and the wondrous concept of time travel to produce a (mostly) family-friendly film that is a paean to fatherhood, love and self-sacrifice.

Fighting for Love

Fighter pilot Adam Reed (Ryan Reynolds, of Deadpool fame) steals a time jet in 2050 to save his wife Laura Shane (Zoe Saldaña, Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy) back in 2018, but is injured and crash-lands in 2022. This happens to be a particularly tough year for his younger self (Walker Scobell), who is mourning the loss of his scientist father (Mark Ruffalo, who played the Hulk in The Avengers series).

In his deep pain, the younger Adam is rude and disobedient to his mother, Ellie (Jennifer Garner). “Babies are pure love. They grow into teenagers who grow into assassins of happiness,” she sighs. The older Adam scolds his younger self:

“Every morning she wakes up with a broken heart and a closet full of his clothes and gets nothing from you but a fistful of cr*p and not even like ten seconds of genuine empathy… You know, 30 years from now you still get sick to your stomach every time you remember how you treated her now.”

In a chance meeting with his mother, the older Adam consoles her:

“Teenage boys are horrible… Mothers are usually the ones who take the hit. But I’ll tell you somethin’… Boys always come back for their mamas.”

He advises her to share her sorrow with her son:

“Aren’t you grieving too? You should tell him. You think you’re being strong for him, and the problem with acting like you have it all together is… He believes it. Maybe he needs to know that you don’t. It’s okay if you don’t.”

Indeed, death and loss are an all-too-common part of life, and sometimes adults think we ought to pretend we aren’t affected in order to carry on for our children. But talking about your feelings can reassure your offspring that it is normal and fine to feel sad, and you can turn it into a teachable moment to model how to express and live with your grief in a healthy manner.

Absent Dad

As a safety feature in his jet prevents him from flying while injured, the older Adam has to bring his younger self along on his mission, using his DNA to enter his jet. Skipping some details here to avoid spoilers, we head to 2018 with both Adams to find their father Louis Reed, the inventor of time travel.

Louis is the typical absentminded professor, seemingly more interested in his research and theories than day-to-day life. “Stop being a scientist. Be a father,” the older Adam admonishes him. “You were always more interested in the universe than your son… he needs you.” He is hostile and resentful toward his father.

Shaken by his son’s plea, Louis discusses his doubts about his parenting skills with his wife. He frets about his introverted son:

“I don’t know if I should’ve built that game for him. Shouldn’t he be outside, playing with the rest of the kids? How is he gonna find his place in the world?”

“‘His place in the world’? He’s a kid. We’re his place in the world. You’re his place in the world,” Ellie responds.

“When you are with us… you’re with us 100%. It’s amazing. And when you’re not… it’s like… pfft. So is he a little lonely? Yeah, probably. But does that make you a sh*tty guy? No.

“He doesn’t need perfect. He just needs you,” she emphasises.

Working Through Grief

The younger Adam helps his older self restore the memory of his father. “I know you think you know more than me because you’re older. And I know why you hate him so much.”

“Was it because he’s narcissistic, or, uh, never came home from work or cared more about his job than his son?” the older Adam retorts sarcastically.

“It’s because he died. You hate him because he died. You made yourself hate him because it was easier than missing him. And I remember some stuff that you maybe don’t wanna. He played catch with us almost every night. He’d get home from work, be so tired, and I’d be in the yard throwing the ball against the pitch back. You remember the pitch back, right?”

“Oh, I… I remember the pitch back. Yeah, he bought it so he didn’t have to play with me,” the older Adam grouses.

“Nope. He bought it because they had one in the window of Altman’s. And every time we passed that store, I begged him to buy it for me, so that’s what Dad did. He’d see me throwin’ in the yard, and no matter how tired he was, he’d always grab his mitt to come out for a catch.

“Things happened to you, to us. And we suck at dealing with it. I’m starting to think it’s something we do. I give Mom a hard time now, and… I think… I think it’s easier to be angry than it is to be sad. And I guess, when I get older, I forget that there’s a difference.”

“How’d you get to be so smart?” the older Adam asks.

“How’d you get to be so dumb?” his younger self replies.

“I spent thirty years trying to get away from the me that was you,” the older Adam admits, considering his dorky, annoying, yet winsome younger self. “And I’ll tell you what. You were the best part all along.”

Beloved Son

Professor Reed is adamant about not trying to change the future and avert his own death. He pours forth his love in a beautiful speech that any loving, hardworking father might make, knowing that one day his children will outlive him in the natural course of things.

“I’m sorry that I’m not gonna be there for you down the road, and I’ve given it a lot of thought, but you cannot tell me how or when it happens… You’re my future. Both of you. And how lucky am I that I got to see it?” he says to the two versions of his son.

“I haven’t been there for you. And I’m sorry. But I saw you being born. I watched you take your first breath. And after that happens, nothing is ever the same again. You’re my son, Adam, and I love you. You’re my boy, and I love you.

“I loved you from the first minute that I saw you. And that will never change. You’re amazing. I love you. I am proud of you. I love you, son. Know that inside your heart. Come here. Come here. You’re my boys, and you’ll always be my boys. Throughout all time.”

After their last embrace, they play one final game of catch before parting. Fatherly love is demonstrated in such simple moments of quality time. No sweeping grand gestures are needed — just ordinary fun together. It is these moments which remain most poignant and memorable, laying the foundations for the child’s future recollection of a solid love that will remain with him forever.

Though it may not be the biggest blockbuster, The Adam Project is a gem of a film, reflecting the importance of fatherhood and family. Along with some nifty action shots, plus eye-popping visual effects and the humour that generally accompanies any film with Ryan Reynolds, it makes for enjoyable entertainment that will leave you feeling moved and perhaps contemplative about your own family relations.

The Australian Classification Board has rated this movie M, for moderate impact in themes, violence and language, so it is advisable to watch it only with older children. It is from the same director and producers of Free Guy (2021), the action-comedy film that also starred Ryan Reynolds.

About the Author: Jean Seah

Jean Seah is a law and liberal arts graduate with a profound faith in God. She is a passionate supporter of Freedom, Faith, Family and Life. Jean is the Managing Editor of the Daily Declaration and looks after the Canberra Declaration's social media. Jean is a devout Catholic who lives in Brisbane, Australia. She also edits and writes for MercatorNet and Ignitum Today; and has written for News Weekly and Aleteia.

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