There's something off in the first scene of "Intermission," when Colin Farrell (on a brief sabbatical from Hollywood to his native Ireland) sweet-talks the young cashier at the local tea shop in the mall. He's much too handsome for the girl, and his steady banter, all about love and chance and finding happiness, a little too menacing. So it's both a total surprise and strangely predictable when he lands a mean punch flat on the girl's nose and then proceeds to empty the cash register.
Unfortunately, the strong opening scene turns out to be the film's best. John Crowley's ensemble drama provides many wonderful moments and rich nuanced details, but suffers from the weight of too many characters and a complicated, implausible plot device to eventually tie the stories together. Shirley Henderson (who is suddenly, wonderfully everywhere these days currently starring in Lone Scherfig's "Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself," as Moaning Mertle in the Harry Potter films, and as Rene Zellweger's side kick in "Bridget Jones Diary") is terrific as Sally, an angry young woman, burned by love, who proudly bears an ugly moustache growing on her upper lip until she sees herself on television.
Kelly MacDonald ("Trainspotting," "Gosford Park") is equally winning as Sally's sister Deirdre who is dumped by her boyfriend John (Cillian Murphy), just to see how she reacts. "It's an intermission," the oh-so-cute Cillian Murphy explains to his buddy. Deidre, however, is far too practical to play such games, and rather than putting her life on hold for a grocery store employee, she takes up with the local middle-aged (and married) banker.
The story takes place during the lovers' intermission. Murphy, who played the deliciously handsome butcher in "Girl With A Pearl Earring," is well on his way to becoming Ireland's second most famous import after Farrell, but despite his smooth complexion, the endearing habit of mixing brown syrup in his tea, and his clear blue eyes, he never struck me as a bloke worth taking back, and certainly not forgiving. Forget about the break up: later he takes his girl and her lover hostage in a poorly planned robbery attempt that eventually turns violent.
"Intermission" is always rich in ambience, and perhaps, despite numerous flaws and unnecessary characters, the film may be worth seeing just for the privilege of watching an elderly man in his wheelchair at the local pub, his head tilted down to the floor, legs in the air, drinking a pint of Guinness through a straw.