Adam & Paul (2004)
“… and you thought you were having a bad day…”
Director: Leonard Abrahamson
Cast: Tom Murphy, Mark O’Halloran, Gavin Dowdall
Synopsis: a day in the life of two Dublin heroin addicts, Adam and Paul.
There’s something of Laurel & Hardy about Adam & Paul (Mark O’Halloran and the late Tom Murphy), a couple of hopeless Dublin heroin addicts whose entire lives are centred around finding enough money to buy their next fix. In fact, Murphy even appears to be doing a Stan Laurel impression as he sits on a bench listlessly munching on a pilfered baguette, and the slapstick elements of the story echo those of the vintage duo. But Adam & Paul are the flipside of Laurel & Hardy, the dark realism of a fanciful illusion; they’re pitiful ghosts, haunting the run-down council estates and the shiny tourist attractions of modern-day Dublin. They’re pathetic but likeable, and they humanise those sadly familiar figures found in every city.
The film is untroubled by a plot, following, instead, the aimless wanderings of the eponymous characters. Adam awakens from a night sleeping rough on a mattress to discover that some joker has glued his trousers and jacket to it. Once Paul has freed him, they immediately go in search of drugs, only to be chased out of a high-rise flat by the pusher they’re trying to score from. They come across a friend playing football in the park with his son, and then a group of friends who are less than thrilled to see them. Adam & Paul are a considerable number of rungs further down the ladder than their friends, but there’s a hopelessness about them all, a sense of demons taking over all their lives. A picnic in the park for them consists of drinking cheap beer and smoking joints while the kids play football.
The film Adam & Paul continues in this vein for its relatively brief running time (around 82 minutes). The bleakness of its storyline and the environment in which it takes place is leavened by moments of unexpected humour. Paul suffers a number of physical mishaps throughout the day, and the pair of them have an encounter with a truculent Romanian. They then have a run-in with a thug who mistakenly believes they’re spreading the word around the City that he owes them money, which ends in an almost farcical situation when he press-gangs them into acting as lookouts while he and his mate trash a service station shop. Inevitably, some episodes are stronger than others — their attempt to sell a stolen television is particularly weak – but the scenes that work are particularly well handled. The duo’s attempted mugging of a mentally challenged youth is played low-key but it’s like a slap in the face to an audience that might have slowly found itself slowly warming towards the wretched duo. And then their tender handling of a young babe shows an altogether more palatable and sensitive side to their nature.