If Trainspotting is accused of glamourising heroin addiction and creating heroin chic, then Adam & Paul is its grim, socio-realist counterpart, but there is nothing chic about this film. On any given day hooded scagheads lurch around the streets of
city centre. They either have a look of desperation to score their next fix or they are spaced out in heroin heaven. Figures of hate, derision, fear or pity, they are the untouchables of Irish society. Adam & Paul charts the day in the life of two such addicts. It is an intensely funny and tragic film. It is a very Irish film that juxtaposes humour with pathos. Originally released in 2004 and written by Mark O’Halloran, the film is set during the height of the Celtic Tiger boom with Dublin Dublin as its epicenter. The life of Adam and Paul is contrasted sharply against this bright new consumerist world.
Adam is played by Mark O’Halloran and Paul is brilliantly played by the late Tom Murphy who died of lymphatic cancer in 2007 (he was 39 at the time of his death). Picture the dynamics between Laurel and Hardy and you get some idea how these two characters interact. Adam is the brains and Paul is the pathetic loveable lackey. Yet against this humourous act both actors convey a real sense of desperation in their need for drugs. They sweat, shake, get cramps and do almost anything to get money which usually ends in farce and some part of Paul’s body suffering damage. The humour is subtle and clever. One of the highlights for me is when a homeless guy asks Paul for a smoke, he replies ‘I was just going to ask you for a smoke’. Paul walks away empty handed and chats with Adam. In the background, the viewer can see the homeless guy take out a pack of cigarettes and light up. Another classic moment is the argument between Adam, Paul and the Bulgarian man, who they assume to be Romanian.
Whilst the film is darkly funny it never allows the viewer to escape the soul destroying effects of heroin addiction. All day they try to get money or drugs from friends and contacts or through stealing, all of which ends in failure, until a large packet of heroin falls into their laps. The characters are made all the more believable because they rob a boy with downs syndrome and whilst they are not violent, they are disgusted he has no money. Heroin addiction robs them of their moral compass. This is especially made evident in the end. Adam dies of an overdose and Paul sits in shock for a few moments until the addict in him kicks in when he takes the remaining heroin and leaves his friend’s dead body on the beach. The ending is credible and authentic and I am grateful it did not lapse into idealism or some sort of faux moralism. It represents the real face of addiction. The film has it all; superb acting, beautiful and clever camera work and a script that is tight, realistic but deeply moving. I would urge everyone to watch this film.
© The Bag Lady September 2009