Monday, Feb. 2
Kisses (2008, Ireland/Sweden, Lance Daly)
What a charmer! Equal parts Little Fugitive, 400 Blows and Sweet Sixteen (minus the knife to the throat violence. Otherwise, the descriptor “charmer” would be wildly outta place), Kisses gives us a glimpse of the mean streets of contemporary Dublin that is probably not going to be approved by the local chamber of commerce or tourism board, but smacks of the sort of authenticity you hope to find in wee films like this one. Kylie and Dylan, neighbours in a rundown Dublin suburb, are a couple of tweeners who, when faced with untenable situations at home, decide it is time to cut bait and flee. Taking to the road, they head into Dublin looking for Dylan’s older brother, who left home for similar reasons a couple of years previous. Their journey is a modern day Odyssey of sorts, though rather than journeying home they are travelling to find themselves a place in this world where violence and degradation are not the daily norm.
Kisses is a hybrid of sorts, in that it presents the reality of urban decay without veneer, while also layering equal parts of romanticism and charm atop the stark imagery. Occasionally this proved detrimental to the film, as there is at least one too many cutesy musical montages--replete with oppressively uplifting score—for my tastes; however, generally speaking, the lighter moments provide just the right amount of relief from the darker ones, giving the film the sort of balance that allows us to feel the complete experience of the children, both the exhilaration of escape from the hell that was home and the lurking sense of dread about what awaits around the next corner. Of the two leads, it is young Kylie (Kelly O’Neill) who runs the show, and it is O’Neill’s performance that has the most lasting impact. Tart-tongued yet tender, she pushes and prods young Dylan (Shane Curry) into leaving with her, and committing to a relationship that the romantic in me (even as the sceptic in me scoffs) wants to believe will last a lifetime. And while O’Neill gives the more memorable performance, that is not to slight Curry’s work. He has a natural, unaffected air that serves his character well, and keeps us convinced that what we are witnessing is something akin to cinema verite.
Kisses is one of the best films being screened at this year’s film festival.