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Intermission (2003)

Life is what happens in between.

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 106 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

Not all ensemble films about love’s ups and downs are as cringingly saccharine as Love Actually.

The (literally) hard-hitting ‘Intermission’ maps out the intersecting lives of a group of Dubliners who are between partners, and follows their thoroughly coarse, often violent and generally unhinged quest for some sort of stable relationship. Stripping most of the romance away from the romantic comedy genre, the film depicts a world where love hurts, and where radical shifts in destiny are just a stone’s throw away. Lonely, disgruntled supermarket worker Oscar (David Wilmot) is worried he has lost his sexual function. His none too bright, brown sauce addicted co-worker John (Cillian Murphy) has rashly dumped his girlfriend Deirdre (Kelly Macdonald) as a test, only to learn that she has immediately shacked up with middle-aged bank manager Sam (Michael McElhatton), leaving Noeleen (Deirdre O’Keen), Sam’s wife of fourteen years, to embark on an uncontrollable anger spree. Deirdre’s sister Sally (Shirley Henderson) is so short on self-esteem after her last disastrous relationship that she has allowed her moustache to grow enough for even problem-plagued Mick the busdriver (Brian F. O’Byrne) to notice. Meanwhile ludicrously hard police detective Jerry Lynch (Colm Meaney) is desperate to have sheepish TV-man Ben (Thomas O’Suilleabhain) make a documentary on his one-man war against ‘scumbags’, even as his nemesis, the wok-obsessed thug Lehiff (Colin Farrell), recruits John and Mick for a criminal plot in which love and revenge will collide head on (with a sheep, no less).

In this ferociously funny film of misty bus routes, wrong turns and crossed paths, John Crowley’s breathlessly assured direction and Mark O’Rowe’s tight script guarantee that you do not lose your way through the multiple storylines and characters, even if you never know exactly where you are headed, or what fresh surprise lurks round the corner. This unpredictability makes the whole daft chain of events compelling to watch, as does the extremely crude, absurd dialogue and the frequent bursts of violence – almost every character is at some point punched, shot, scratched, covered in blood, shat or pissed on.

What ‘Intermission’ lacks in budget it more than makes up for in sheer exuberance and energy. While in the end containing little more insight into the ways of love than your average romantic comedy, it is certainly a more gripping, edgier affair, that keeps your attention – without intermission.

It's Got: Colm Meany and Colin Farrell brilliant as the equally psychotic cop and robber united by their love of Celtic mysticism, a wheelchair race, lots of brown sauce in tea, and a raucous cover of I fought the law sung by Colin Farrell.

It Needs: To be less slight (although you will barely notice this until the film is over)


A well-acted, ambitiously plotted directorial debut which will leave you with a big smile. If all romantic comedies had this much cynicism, violence and raw energy, there would be hope for the genre.