Kelly O’Neill and Shane Curry in Kisses

From Ireland, Kisses is a low key, unassuming and altogether charming coming of age drama set at an age when concepts like love and rebellion haven’t fully taken shape. Dylan and Kylie are two neighbor kids growing up in troubled homes in a run down suburb of Dublin. After a fight with his abusive father, Dylan bolts with Kylie in tow. When she convinces him to track down his older brother in the big city, a simple yet lovely there-and-back road movie is born. Its pleasures are modest, but all the more engaging for it.

Grounded by two unaffected performances from newcomers Shane Curry and Kelly O’Neill as Dylan and Kylie, Kisses sings softly with the quiet marvel and mystery of the world as experienced through the eyes of the young but not so innocent. In that way it recalls René Clément’s Forbidden Games a little bit. Aged 11 or so, these two have probably seen more of the darker side of life than many their age, yet they somehow seem untainted. Dylan is a quiet, sensitive boy while Kylie is his emotional opposite; a foulmouthed spitfire who won’t take any shit from anyone – even those twice her size. Dylan is more reactive where Kylie is a streetwise doer. As nighttime Dublin veers uneasily between magical and threatening, the two ultimately find that they make a great team.

This is a patient, lovely film that is content simply to observe and enjoy each moment as it comes – not unlike a couple of kids taking advantage of a moment of freedom in the city. There’s a story arc, but the real pleasures lie in the details. It’s similar in aesthetic to the films of Rahmin Bahrani, though it’s not as stark. It also has a Jim Jarmusch flavor in the way music (in this case Bob Dylan) informs the proceedings and in the sense that something strange and magical could happen at any moment.

About an hour in (this is a short film clocking in at only 75 minutes), the story takes a quick turn toward the more highly dramatic that at first seems like an unwelcome detour, yet somehow it works. When the story settles down again for an ending carried entirely by the actors expressions, it all feels of a piece.

Perhaps because it is so unassertive, Kisses took its time finding a US distributor. Completed in 2008, it’s been playing the festival circuit ever since and only now shows up in US theaters in a welcome bit of summer tent pole counter-programming. Kisses may not have an obvious marketing hook, but in the end that’s one of its many charms.

Kisses. Ireland 2008 (US release 2010). Written, directed and photographed by Lance Daly. Music score composed and performed by Go Blimps Go. Edited by J. Patrick Duffner. Starring Kelly O’Neill, Shane Curry, Paul Re, Neili Conroy, Daid Bendito and Willie Higgins with an unbilled cameo by Stephen Rea. 1 hour 15 minutes. Not rated by the MPAA. 4 stars (out of 5).

6 Responses to “Review: Kisses (2010) ****”

  1. Hadn’t even heard of this. Sounds excellent.

  2. This film was strongly recommended by one of the regular commenters at WitD, the fecund Irishman from Dublin, Longman Oz, who is an extremely difficult person to please, so I was planning to see it over the weekend. Your comparison there with Bahreni is most interesting, and that very short running time is curious. But I like what you say here, and am excited to check it out.

  3. and there is some SPECTACULAR NEWS people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Get those wallets and creditcards out!!!!!!!

  4. Sam, I hope you like it. It’s not the kind of movie that grabs you by the shirt collar and demands you love it. It’s very subtle and kind of sweet. Easy to overlook, but if it manages to work its uniquely irish magic on you, then it’s a real charmer.

  5. I loved, loved, loved, loved it!

  6. I’m glad Sam!

    It’s kind of a hit or miss film. I quietly suspected you’d fall for it, but I wouldn’t have been shocked if you hadn’t.

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