Paddy’s Paradise (2012) – By Cary Conley

Paddy is a homeless man who lives in a broken-down telephone booth on the outskirts of London, England. Driven mad by the untimely loss of the love of his life, he’s become an alcoholic who spends his days wandering the streets and parks of suburban London and his nights sleeping in the telephone booth. He’s a kind soul who still greets people happily and is generally thought of as harmless if a bit annoying, but underneath his dirty clothes is a broken and deeply sad man whose mind is just off-kilter enough that he doesn’t want to leave the phone–which is clearly marked "out of order"–in case his love calls him from Heaven.

We first meet Paddy as an elderly lady chastises him for not wearing any shoes on a crisply cold Autumn day. She gives him some cash and admonishes him not to buy anything but food with the money, wondering aloud why he isn’t staying in the shelter the town council found for him. It’s obvious the townspeople know his situation and try to take care of him as best they can but Paddy needs to be near the phone, not across town in a shelter.

As the days progress Paddy becomes more and more hopeless. Wandering the streets, drinking beer when he can scrape up enough cash to buy some, and rummaging through trash cans to keep from starving, he comes near his breaking point one night in his telephone booth. Holding the picture of his dead wife, looking at her favorite wind chime he has kept and hung in the corner of the dilapidated booth, he breaks down, crying and praying at once, asking God to help him. But will anyone hear his desperate plea for help? Is there any hope for that telephone to ever ring? Or is Paddy doomed to live on in a state of infinite misery?

This 11-minute short film is a remarkably gentle yet powerful tale of one man’s broken heart. It is both sweet and heart-breaking, reminding me of the famous Christmas story of The Little Match Girl, another powerful story of misery and redemption. Christopher Adamson is superb as Paddy, the broken yet gentle man who simply wants to be with his lost love. Writer/director Alex Masterson fills the screen with Adamson’s face on numerous occasions while Adamson delivers an astounding range of emotion in these close-ups. Seldom have I seen a film that allows me to feel the emotions of the character on the screen, but such is the impact of Adamson’s facial expressions and delivery of his final lines that one would be hard-pressed not to identify with Paddy’s misery. There are only a handful of other characters who are all in supporting roles, but Jane Thorne as Mrs. Cywinski, the lady who gently chides Paddy to wear his shoes in the opening scene, also manages to convey the sympathy of the entire town in just two short scenes.

The film is shot beautifully as well, managing to capture both the natural beauty of the English landscape as well as its coldly grey Autumn days. These shots portray perfectly the emotions of Paddy: he’s as gentle as a fall day spent watching the birds in the park but his pain is as starkly cold as an October night in England.

Paddy’s Paradise is making its way across the European festival circuit but as yet has not made the jump across the Pond to the U.S. For more information about this extraordinary film or to view the trailer, go to http://www.paddysparadise.co.uk.