Two junkies, Adam and Paul, wake up to find themselves on a field a short walk away from a grim housing estate. How they got there is one question they can't answer, nor can they explain the events which led to Adam becoming superglued to the stale mattress he slept on. But this is the least of their problems as they begin their quest to score, a quest which takes in meetings with friends and foes both old and new.
Set in the world of the homeless and drug-addicted dregs of Dublin, Adam and Paul is an uncompromisingly bleak drama with an injection of black humour running throughout. The lead duo, played with a natural ease by Tom Murphy (Paul) and screenwriter Mark O'Halloran (Adam), are familiar in so much as they continue the tradition of many a double act. The duo's co-dependent relationship conjures up, in a sometimes perverse and masochistic way, memories of Laurel and Hardy, Morecambe and Wise, and Mayall and Edmondson. Despite their arguments and little digs, there is a genuine friendship between this pair of lost souls, created by two integral performances. Indeed, so close are they that the friends they encounter greet them with a "Hello Adam-and-Paul", as if they are conjoined twins.
There have been some comparisons made between this movie and Trainspotting, but there are only vague similarities at best. Unlike Danny Boyle, there is no attempt by Abrahamson to make a big commercial hit for the student generation. He eschews any gimmicky or overly stylised camerawork, and there is no chart-friendly soundtrack. Adam and Paul is a far less hip affair, focusing on grim reality, but that doesn’t mean there aren't some striking visuals. The duo's drug-induced meander and collapse on Dublin’s Millennium Bridge highlights in images the stark contrast between the portrayal Dublin would like to present to the world as a modern city, and the realities of poverty and drug abuse which blight every city but never seem to get addressed.
There are some light-hearted moments, which in the hands of a less confident director would have been played for broader comic appeal; the increasing number of injuries sustained by Paul for instance raise a few guilty chuckles, but chief amongst these is the duo's meeting with a Bulgarian immigrant. Scenes such as this also have an underlying sense of pathos and comment on larger social issues. In contrast are the sometimes difficult to watch actions of the pair, a backstreet mugging making for particularly uncomfortable viewing. At such times the characters don't exactly evoke strong sympathy but neither are they demonised. Abrahamson is totally non-judgemental of his protagonists, there is no moral standpoint enforced upon them, in fact they themselves appear to have no compunctions as to what is right or wrong, they are just forced to do what they have to in order to survive.
The characters humanity is occasionally brought to the fore, most obviously when the duo get distracted from a criminal act by the crying of a baby. A scene in which the viewer may contemplate that Adam and Paul were also once helpless infants, full of the same potential. But there is no great revelation or self-analysis for the characters, the closest they come to examining their situation is when Paul pleads "Why can't things be easy . . . why can't we have a bit of luck." A plea that goes beyond the problems of two junkies and has a more universal ring to it. These characters are part of the disenfranchised, the underclass that we try not to see everyday in every city.
An uncomfortably honest film, Adam and Paul may not be saying anything new – a junkie's lot is not a happy one – but gives an authentic voice to those that don't normally have one. Its relentlessly downbeat tone is tempered with occasional black humour and has at its centre an unforgettable duo. Alas, it probably won't get the large audience it deserves, but hopefully good word of mouth will attract well-warranted praise from those that get the chance to see it.