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Adam and Paul

January 16, 2016

Adam and Paul (2004)
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Actors: Mark O’Halloran, Tom Murphy, Gerry Moore

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Synopsis: Destitute no-hopers, Adam (Mark O’Halloran) and Paul (Tom Murphy), wander haplessly around Dublin, trying desperately to scam some money so they can score a hit.

Review: Adam and Paul is one of the most intelligent and perfectly controlled pieces of cinematic storytelling I’ve seen in recent times, and offers clear evidence as to why the career of its director, Lenny Abrahamson, sky-rocketed from this point on. 

The film opens on a simply exquisite sequence of observational comedy which stands as fitting emblem for the overall excellence of Abrahamson’s craft. Two smackheads, Adam and Paul, wake up abjectly on some isolated scrubland on the outskirts of Dublin, and Paul has to comically extract Adam from the disused bed mattress he’s somehow found himself glued to. It’s both an unbelievably funny instance of slapstick, while offering subliminal, darker social commentary. Namely, how did these two guys end up in that situation (the implication is due to awful, squalid reasons)? And what on earth do they do with their day(s) from this point going forward? It’s also a beautifully framed scene, with Adam and Paul’s travails shadowed by the industrial, metropolitan landscape of Dublin that they’re destined to enter to presumably hustle for chemical, fiscal and emotional succour.

What Abrahamson gets so right is this tricky blend of quite remarkable comedy – mining an ambience both farcical and of the bleakly gallows variety – with a wider social critique. Although Adam and Paul are to some extent pitiable characters, most of the acts they commit are actually extremely criminal and antisocial – an attempt at carjacking, stealing bags in cafes, and even robbing a Down Syndrome boy. The mastery of Abrahamson’s narration is that without the humorous rhetoric, the film would actually have been rather sinister and venal. And, sure enough, Adam and Paul’s ‘day in the life of’ odyssey has an inevitable undertow to it, ending cyclically enough with both of them drugged out of their heads on the same stretch of Dublin coastline, only this time with a tragic, rather than comic, morning surprise.(January 2016)

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