The Adam Project: Madness Over Sadness? Here’s Three Steps towards Healing

Time travel is real. You just don’t know it yet. 

Credit to the writers of The Adam Project for crafting an opening line worthy of the likes of Star Wars (“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”) and The Gunslinger (“The Man in Black fled across the desert and the Gunslinger followed”). 

With that out of the way, we are immediately dropped in the middle of the action! Adam Reed (Ryan Reynolds) has stolen a spaceship and someone else (Catherine Keener) who clearly doesn’t have his best interests in mind is in hot pursuit. He takes some damage, hits a few buttons and punches it. Into a wormhole he goes!

The idea was to head back some 30 years into the past to 2018 to prevent something important, but instead Adam ends up in 2022. Oops!  

This isn’t easy on older Adam, who finds himself facing – literally! – his 12-year-old self (newcomer Walker Scobell), who is struggling in the aftermath of his father’s (Mark Ruffalo) death, getting pummeled at school due to his smart aleck remarks, and a strained relationship with his mom (Jennifer Garner) as both learn how to adjust to the trauma. 

The undersized young Adam, on the other hand, is thrilled. “I’m ripped!” he exclaims!

Reynolds Gonna Reynold

Half the fun of the movie is watching the chemistry between Reynolds and Scobell, the latter of which does a convincing job of portraying a younger version of the former. His mannerisms and the cadence of his words is just pitch perfect.  

Reynolds, for his part, does that Ryan Reynolds persona that he does so well. Even so, there are subtle layers to his performance, an underlying weariness and sadness to his elder Adam.  He insists to his younger counterpart that the pain, emotional calluses and resulting cynicism is needed to make him stronger later in life, but the film asks the question: Is it really?

Fans of 13 Going on 30 will be thrilled to see a Garner-Ruffalo reunion. Keener feels underutilized, with an interesting twist to her character’s villainry that the movie fails to build on. 

Films in the time travel genre are always a complicated to navigate. Some may come out of The Adam Project bothered if too much thought is placed into the proceedings. There’s plenty of technobabble, but for the most part it is sloppy with its “rules.” But if you can set that aside, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had. 

The best description that applies here is retro futuristic. The likes of The Last Starfighter, Flight of the Navigator, and E.T. come to mind. And The Terminator and Back to the Future, of course. It even has light sabers (though the screenplay goes out of the way to point this out, only to quickly add not really!)


Much in the same way that Pixar’s Inside Out explores the role of sadness, The Adam Project invites us to consider anger, as illustrated by this observation by Adam to his older self:

Young Adam: 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.

Anger is the easiest emotion to feel, which makes sense. That well of fury that rises? It gives a jolt of energy that leaves us feeling more in charge. Compare that to sadness, which leaves feelings of helplessness and vulnerability. It’s an uncomfortable feeling and who wants that?  So, off to anger we go! Grrrrr.

“Good! Use your aggressive feelings, boy. Let the hate flow though you!” exclaims Emperor Palpatine, while trying to seduce Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side in Star Wars. But it’s obviously not the right approach to anger (Read: DARK SIDE). 

C’mon, are you really surprised that I found a way to bring it back to Star Wars? If so, welcome to the blog!

Take a Chill Pill

So what to do with it?

It would help to look at anger as another way that our mind and body is trying to tell us something. What are some of the underlying issues that are driving it? Needless to say, it is best to conduct this thought exercise when we have had time to cool down and come at it with sound mind.

A failure to cool can have dire consequences. Someone can get hurt as we lash out! When anger rises, testosterone is released and the higher the amount, the harder it is to regulate. So, as my 6th grade math teacher would always say: Take a chill pill!

Grief Is Not One Size Fits All

Grief and how we work through it is going to be different for everyone. In The Adam Project, it was an anger that slowly festered through the years. The story makes it apparent that Adam never truly got a handle on it and it serves as a cautionary tale of what can happen if ignored.

According to Thrive Works, there are three steps to working through anger while grieving:


  • Get to the root of your anger. Find a grief counselor to help you through this key first step.
  • Dig into other emotions. What are you feeling? Anger is considered a secondary emotion, meaning that beneath it is a primary emotion like, say, sadness or fear.
  • Lean into your pain. This may seem counterintuitive. Why invite more pain? But actively ignoring it would virtually guarantee that it will go unresolved.


Just remember that there is no hard and true timeline for us to be “over it,” if there is such a thing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Where to Watch

The Adam Project is currently available for streaming on Netflix.

Have you seen The Adam Project yet? What would you say to your 12-year-old self? Any helpful tips on dealing with anger you would like to share? Please share in the comments below!

The Adam Project (2022)

Director: Shawn Levy

Screenwriter: Jonathan Tropper, T.S. Nowlin, Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, Zoe Saldana, Catherine Keener

Rating: PG-13 (For violence/action, language and suggestive references)

Runtime: 106 minutes


  1. Vi

    Now I’m intrigued and I’m going to put this movie on my list to watch. As to how I would handle anger, I think I would acknowledge it, get to the root of it, but most importantly, learn to forgive and move on in life. Thanks for sharing this review!

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  2. April

    You had me at Ruffalo/Garner reunion! Do you think older kids would enjoy this movie? Would it be a good one for a family movie night?

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      Scott Harrison Rees

      I believe it is appropriate for older kids. Just some minor language and some sexual suggestions (such as young Adam quizzing old Adam about whether he gets laid 😂), but not overly violent.

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  3. Christine H

    This is on our list to watch but I wasn’t quite sure. Sounds like we would enjoy. Thanks for sharing. Ryan Reynolds’s is one of my favorites!

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  4. Lani

    I love Ryan, he’s funny and handsome. The best part is you can almost guarantee that the film will be fun – Checking this out. Thanks for the info.

  5. herJeannie

    I love Ryan Reynolds movies so much, I loved him even more in Hitman’s Bodyguard. The man is such a great actor! I’ve never watched this movie but I’m adding it to my watch list. Great job!

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