Review: ‘Adam & Paul’

A latter-day Laurel and Hardy wait for their Godot on the mean junkie streets of Dublin in the assured yet inevitable character study "Adam & Paul." Successfully humanizing the bleak and frequently absurdist world of marginalized urban addicts at the expense of narrative tension, pic is more a modest triumph of stylized tone than incisive substance.

A latter-day Laurel and Hardy wait for their Godot on the mean junkie streets of Dublin in the assured yet inevitable character study “Adam & Paul.” Successfully humanizing the bleak and frequently absurdist world of marginalized urban addicts at the expense of narrative tension, pic is more a modest triumph of stylized tone than incisive substance. Fest dates are assured for this distinctive Irish feature, with some specialized arthouse bookings and ancillary life possible where word-of-mouth can still successfully champion the authentically unusual.

This scrawny, mismatched pair is so completely dissipated by their habit that they’re referred to collectively as “adamandpaul,” and it isn’t until the closing credits that auds learn the tall zonked one is Adam (scripter Mark O’Halloran) and the short jumpy one is Paul (Tom Murphy). Story follows a day in their deadend lives as they wander from the field where they slept through Dublin, awash with the flotsam and jetsam of society, in search of the elusive “Whatsisname” who might furnish much-needed fixes.

They first stumble upon the extended family of Wayne (Paul Roe), whose sister Janine (Louise Lewis) may or may not be their shared g.f. They have a series of whacked-out arguments with a procession of odd individuals with names like Munky (Michael Ryan) and Zippy (Anthony Morris).

Paul hurts his hand during a bungled smash’n’grab through a closed car window, and a poignant visit to Janine and her baby is closely followed by their inept and callous mugging of a young man with Down syndrome. When they finally score, their grateful high sweeps them to surprises among gathered friends at a pub.

Aiming for a tricky blend of American vaudeville antics and a Euro arthouse feel, commercials helmer Lenny Abrahamson successfully paints a world where visceral cruelty and grudging compassion co-exist in a drug-addled haze. Assembled from notes O’Halloran jotted down after observing Dublin’s junkie subculture, the exasperatingly episodic script benefits enormously from the exquisitely timed wordplay of the two leads and the short, sharp shocks of the supporting players.

Former Romanian minister of culture Ion Caramitru makes the most of his single scene as a homeless Bulgarian.

Tech credits are evocative, with events pushed along by Stephen Rennick’s jaunty music. Pic scored the aud nod from the Galway fest and the best director prize at the Irish Film and Television Awards. Print caught had English subtitles, crucial for understanding content, if not the context, of the slurred and stylized brogue.

Adam & Paul

Ireland

Production

An Abbey Films release (in Ireland) of a Porridge Pictures production in association with Speers Film and Element Films. (International sales: Moviehouse Entertainment, London.) Produced by Jonny Speers. Executive producers, Ed Guiney, Andrew Lowe, Brendan McCarthy. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Screenplay, Mark O'Halloran.

Crew

Camera (color), James Mather; editor, Isobel Stephenson; music, Stephen Rennicks; production designer, Padraig O'Neill; costume designer, Sonya Lennon; sound (Dolby Digital), Simon Willis; assistant director, Sean Griffin. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 14, 2005. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Mark O'Halloran, Tom Murphy, Louise Lewis, Gary Egan, Dylan Grimes, Deirdre Molloy, Mary Murray, Paul Roe, Ian Cregg, Michael Ryan, Gerry Moore, Anthony Morris, Ion Caramitru.
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