Kisses (2008)

First, ignore the critic on the front cover who dubs “Kisses” ‘irresistibly heartwarming.’ This is a dark, gritty drama that pulls no punches in it’s depiction of incredibly resilient Irish youngsters living lives of squalor and abuse.

11-year-old Kylie and Dylan are underprivileged kids who fancy themselves a couple. Dylan is abused by his father, a volatile alcoholic, while Kylie is at the mercy of her unscrupulous Uncle Morris.

One Christmas, the kids run away (after Dylan has a unusually bad fight with his father) and head for Dublin, where they hope to stay with Dylan’s runaway brother. On their journey, they make confessions, share secrets, and try to survive in a city that swallows up it’s weakest and offers little hope to two children trying to get by.

“Kisses” starts out in black-and-white, then brightens into sumptuous color about halfway through as Dylan and Kylie spend time with Dublin eccentrics and survive several terrifying ordeals.

The children are the center of the movie, and they both give very good performances. I think Kelly O’Neill as Kylie really stood out with her touching performance, I see great things in this girl’s future.

I was floored by how real this movie felt- with no pat resolutions for our troubled protagonists. I will admit that the part with Kylie and Dylan kissing made me very uncomfortable… frankly I don’t think 12-year-old kids should be kissing like that in front of a camera, but I digress.

“Kisses” establishes itself as one of the best films centering around the younger generation, and the two leads’ friendship and tentative romance existing among disgustingly dysfunctional adults will warm your heart.

Writer/directer Lance Daly proves himself to be a enormously talented filmmaker. “Kisses” is an astonishing debut, and I hope that it is not forgotten in the years that follow among superfluous remakes and summer blockbusters.

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