Knock-on effects of rather primal and thoughtless decisions are the bread and butter of happenstance writing. It gives the author scope to work with the unbelievable. How can a series of severe and strikingly different events piece together naturally? Well, if they are in as close a proximity as the circumstances those characters in Intermission find themselves in, they were bound to overlap at some point. Speaking of such proximity, we are intimately involved with just about every character that shows up in this Irish ensemble from director John Crowley. Not just in the sense that we turn over their affairs and deeply held secrets, but, quite literally, are often in their face.
That shot-reverse-shot simplicity can be utilised so well. It is a sad shame that Crowley does not realise this. Instead, his camera wobbles and shakes, erratic zooms and a camera that moves as much as the jittering cast. Imagine Cloverfield but rather than chased away by some horrifying beast, you’re trapped in a chip shop with Colin Farrell. His sudden act of violence is unpredictable, and with a steadier camera, Crawley would have something rather intelligent to disperse to his audiences. Something must be happening. Crawley gets cold feet almost immediately. Interesting dialogue and characters are always on the move, or rather, they are at a standstill as the camera moves around them. In those rare moments the camera can keep still, Crawley has time to deliberate on the reactions of his characters, but it is rare and he does not use the time wisely.
Instead, it is up to the likes of Cillian Murphy and Colm Meany to pull their weight, pick up the slack direction and do their best. It is hard to focus on a performance when the camerawork is searching for something else to consider. A tremendous disservice to the scriptwriting from Mark O’Rowe, who has crafted some good dialogue out of husk-like characters. They are shells and entities for broad topics and broader meanings. Their antagonism among friends is interesting, Murphy in particular does well to utilise this, but he has turned worse direction into fine performances before, Intermission is no exception. It is a frustrating piece, because the problem is identifiable, easily fixed, and grates harshly on the strong work offered by this all-star cast.
“You just never know what’s gonna happen,” Lehiff (Farrell) says. At least we can hear him, for the camerawork is so messy and the direction unable to focus on any single moment that best represents these characters. It is head-spinningly horrible, and the sad shame about it is that, deep beneath Crawley’s direction, there is a story worth telling. That is the sting in the tail of such incompetency. But that is happenstance for you. It links the uneventful to the unexplored. It has some gall to expect an immediate response from its cast of delinquents, but it does enough to get its foot in the door. Not enough to swing it wide open, though, but it does well to circumvent the Snatch syndrome. Quotable, questionable and quashing all expectations of a thoroughly good time.