Dir:Lenny Abrahamson. Ire. 2005. 86mins.
Imaginea full-length Laurel and Hardy film set in Dublin's junkie netherworld andscripted by the bastard son of Samuel Beckett. If you like the sound of that,then you'll love Adam and Paul, Irish commercials director LennyAbrahamson's first feature.
Abrahamsondoes a grand job, but it's scriptwriter and co-star Mark O'Halloran - Ireland'sShooting Star candidate at this year's Berlinale - who emerges from thisjet-black comedy as the one to watch. He's a solid actor, but what reallyimpresses is his ability to write two characters who are both very stylised andvery believable, deadpan funny and painfully tragic. Yet it's a risky exercise,and the moment audiences let the dialogue, or the duo's aimless progress throughDublin, irritate rather than amuse and the whole thing drifts away like smokefrom a crack spoon.
Backedby the Irish Film Board, Adam and Paul has been one of the moresuccessful homegrown titles at last year's Irish box office. It was given anappreciative but fairly restrained reaction at its Berlin Panorama screening;perhaps its sense of the tragic absurdity of life is just too Irish for abroad'That said, both Laurel and Hardy and Vladimir and Estragon (the philosophisingwasters from Waiting For Godot) are global archetypes, and Adam andPaul could strike a small chord in territories that have a taste formelancholic slapstick -such as Scandinavia and eastern Europe - and like tolook on the bleak side of life.
It'sonly by watching the credits at the end of the film that we work out which ofthese two losers is Adam, and which is Paul. Friends (the few that they haveleft) invariably address them as "adamandpaul" and they call each other "you"or "hey".
Wefirst see the hopeless junkies coming round from the latest drug-fuelled comaon the edge of a high-rise estate. Somebody has glued Adam (O'Halloran) to themattress he fell asleep on, and he walks around for the rest of the film withbits of fabric stuck to the back of his jacket like furry stigmata.
Charactersin films need aims and Adam and Paul's sole aim is to round up the money fortheir next fix. This is what propels them around the grimy streets of Dublin,the lanky Adam loping in front, the straggle-fringed Paul limping patheticallybehind. They fail to steal money from a handicapped kid, meet a Bulgarian whoresents being referred to as Romanian and regrets ever having left Sofia ("wasshe pregnant'" asks Paul, in one of the film's few laugh-out-loud lines), andget involved in a bungled gas station heist, which leaves them the proud ownersof a car - which they promptly trash.
ThatAdam and Paul were once decent beings, like Gollum before the Ring, is broughthome by a sub-plot involving a friend called Michael - another junkie, who dieda month before, but whose funeral they were too wasted or oblivious to attend.It's this faint, faint glimmer of humanity amidst the devastation, togetherwith the fact that this odd couple seem, at least, to have each other, thatsaves the film from becoming a sub-Beckettian parody.
JamesMather's laconic camerawork lopes along at the same pace as the two wasters,picking out Adam's inappropriately jaunty red jacket against the browns andgreys of a rain-lashed Dublin town. And the ending is a lovely littleswitchback between deus ex machina divine intervention and bitter, body-blowrealism.
Prodco: SpeersFilm, Element Films
Int'l sales: Moviehouse Ent
Ire dist: Abbey Films
Exec prods:Andrew Lowe, Ed Guiney
Prod: Jonny Speers
Scr: Mark O'Halloran
Cine: James Mather
Prod des: Padraig O'Neill
Ed: Isobel Stephenson
Music: Stephen Rennicks
Main cast: Mark O'Halloran, Tom Murphy, Louise Lewis, Gary Egan, DeirdreMolloy, Mary Murray