Jul 262010

Kelly O'Neill & Shane Curry from "Kisses."

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By Patricia Ducey. Kisses, a 2008 Irish film and favorite at many important festivals, is now in wider release throughout the US this summer.  [See the trailer below.]  Writer/director Lance Daly spins a tale of two abused Irish kids from the unfashionable outskirts of Dublin who run away from home to find freedom from family strife. No leprechauns or legends in this Ireland – the film takes place in a modern, industrialized Ireland, chockablock with rusting warehouses, traffic jams, and pop culture references. Daly, after a few preview screenings in the US, has wisely provided subtitles to aid the American ear in decoding the Irish patois. [I implore other filmmakers whose films are not in spoken American English to do the same. I’m talking to you, Sarah Gavron.]

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The Irish Film Board, Bord Scannán na hÉireann, which has been financing and promoting the national cinema of Ireland since the 1990s, helped finance Kisses. What is the “national” cinema of Ireland, though, in actuality? Films written or produced by Irish persons, or films about Ireland? Or some permutation of both? Irish filmmakers have borrowed from early American films, like the docudrama Man of Aran or the romanticized The Quiet Man, and vice versa.  I spent some time in Ireland in the ’90s, when the Board first starting supporting these films – I was researching my thesis on this subject – and came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a purely national cinema. But times were good in Ireland then, and the Board plowed ahead. Irish moviegoers, though, voted with their feet and many of these board-supported films ended up, oddly, being shown in art houses in Ireland – while the likes of Mrs. Doubtfire drew the crowds near Grafton Street.  Whether it is smart for any government to support the arts is debatable – just look at the bidding war over tax incentives for movie production here in the US – but such a debate has begun in Ireland due to the now faltering Irish economy.

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Young Shane Curry in "Kisses."

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The truth is that film and narrative have always been ‘globalized’ and Kisses is no exception. The two runaways, Kylie and Dylan, live in a neighborhood Antoine Doinel would feel at home in. The runaways cadge a ride down the canal ala Huck Finn, courtesy of a Russian émigré boatman who introduces the kids to Dylan’s namesake – Jewish/Christian American folk rocker Bob Dylan – with his impromptu rendition of “Shelter From the Storm.”  And later Dylan learns a lesson about the give and take of love from a Jamaican prostitute eking out a living in Dublin.

Dylan and Kylie’s world, though, is a drab working class Ireland. The two families live in comfortable enough homes, but Dylan’s father, a handsome guy, drinks and bullies, while Kylie’s uncle fools everyone in the family except her – she knows from bitter experience what he really is.  Both Dylan and Kylie reach the end of their respective ropes on Christmas Day; one battle royale, one unwanted advance too many, and they are off, with Kylie egging Dylan on to make a run for it. They hop a river barge to the city, and the adventure begins – for good and ill.

The cinematography is lovely. Daly shoots the opening scenes of the housing development in bleak black and white, and lets the color slowly seep into the frame as the kids and the boatman get farther and farther away from home (a nod to The Wizard of Oz? Again, the cross-pollination of film). The two child stars, real Dublin kids Kelly O’Neill as Kylie (a Drew Barrymore look-alike) and Shane Curry as Dylan, shine as newcomers. Daly draws joyous and heartbreaking performances from both of them, without the wise-assery or precociousness we see in so many preteen stories. I wished that perhaps Kylie was a little less heroic a heroine, but that’s a minor quibble.

If you liked a recent Irish film Once, you will like Kisses. Kisses is the anti-Inception. It is small and slight but you won’t forget it – just like your first kiss.

Posted on July 26th, 2010 at 12:45pm.

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7 Responses to “LFM Reviews: Kisses

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mr. K, Libertas Film Mag. Libertas Film Mag said: LFM Reviews: "Kisses" … See: http://bit.ly/bV5cJ6 [...]

  2. Brightstar98 says:

    I’m really enjoying your reviews, Patricia. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it to see this, but I like reading about films like this that I wouldn’t normally hear about otherwise. And it’s always nice to have more women’s voices on the internet when it comes to discussing film. It’s much needed.

  3. Govindini Murty says:

    Great review Patricia – I enjoyed hearing about your Irish experiences and how they form the backdrop for your appreciation of this film. From what I’ve seen of the trailer, “Kisses” does indeed remind me of “The 400 Blows,” but with two protagonists (and one a young girl), instead of just one.

    In the midst of all the special effects fakery of today, it’s good to see stories about real human beings who have to deal with the world as it is, without benefit of superpowers. This looks like a touching story.

  4. PowderMagazine says:

    The Irish always seem so melancholy, even in their films. I suppose my Irish in-laws would love this one.

  5. kishke says:

    I loved Once, but part of what made that movie great was the realness of the music. The vibe I get from your review is that this film is maybe a bit like Millions.

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