Lance Daly’s Kisses is a 2008 independent film set in the inner-city of Dublin, Ireland. The story concerns two very young children, Dylan and Kylie (played by Shane Curry and Kelly O’Neill), and their experiences away from home on a frosty Christmas holiday. I had never heard of it prior to its DVD release, and I’m sorry I hadn’t. It is a lovely film, one bursting at the seams with heart and tenderness. I enjoyed it quite a bit. My review after the jump.
Dylan and Kylie’s adventure begins after a calamity of errors leaves no better option than for them to run away from home – together. Such is not a difficult decision for either as both come from miserable, broken families:
Dylan’s father is abusive, out-of-control. When we first see him he is screaming profanities at a busted toaster. Consider that. A typical run-of-the-mill toaster that has no living parts – as far as I know – and yet this man is raging because of the device’s poor functionality. It makes you wonder what he’d do when faced with a normal crisis. The source of his anger is never made clear, though Dylan’s mother doesn’t help. The two argue profusely while their son hides in a cupboard under the stairs silently playing his handheld video games.
Kylie’s home is no better. Her mom is a mess; her siblings rude and angry. Even the girls pushing their baby strollers down the street have nothing kind to say to her. But Kylie has Dylan and Dylan has Kylie. They look out for one another, even if it is from a distance.
And so when Dylan’s father goes on one of his tirades, Kylie comes to the rescue. The two flee their homes and make for the city, hitchhiking on a small dredger with a hapless captain (David Bendito) who provides a few laughs and explains the importance of Dylan’s name – he is named after singing “god” Bob Dylan (who figures prominently on the soundtrack).
The story kicks into high gear once the kids arrive in Dublin. We follow them as they purchase new clothes and shoes – courtesy of some money found by Kylie whilst hiding under her bed. Dylan’s objective is to find his long lost brother who fled to the city after a similar altercation with his father months ago. Kylie is merely along for the ride.
As the night grows on, the crazies come out in droves. The two children encounter pedophiles, prostitutes, strip clubs and, on one occasion, a dead body. It’s undeniable they will have to return home, the question is how and when.
Movies like this typically drive me nuts. There is an unwritten rule in every low-budget indie flick that everyone on screen must be depressed, miserable, or quirky; the camerawork must be abstract in nature (I.E. colorful lights, meaningful close-ups, etc.); and all of it must be set to the tune of acoustic British music. Yet, for all of its low-budget staples, I really enjoyed Kisses. A lot of it has to do with the kid actors, particularly O’Neill who lends an expressive charm to the proceedings. She pouts and gripes and behaves as every child would under such circumstances, but maintains an angelic quality, her expletive-heavy mouth notwithstanding.
Curry is a bit of a stiff, but such a personality is needed for the role. Dylan is a character who has all but lost emotion. The one true grace he has in his life is Kylie. He spends much of the film’s 78-minute running time figuring that out.
Intriguingly, Kisses starts off in black and white and slowly adds color as the children venture into the city. A radical technique, if not a bit obvious; we understand where the emotion is coming from, the color enhancements only point it out more directly.
The film is titled Kisses because, despite the ill-happenings around them, the one true feeling shared by the characters is indeed a gentle kiss. Dylan receives a kiss for “luck” on his cheek by a prostitute, which he passes along to Kylie during a moment of terror. The two share a beer bottle, given to them by a man called Dylan who sings Bob Dylan songs. And at one point, both kids discover the art of making-out in an alleyway.
There is an obvious attraction between Dylan and Kylie. Sex is discussed fleetingly. Neither child quite understands it; when Dylan gets an erection from standing too close to Kylie, their reactions are appropriately subtle. “Why does it do that,” she asks. “I don’t know. It just does,” is his honest response. The aforementioned seedy underbelly of the world crashes in around them, but their love of one another remains pure and sweet.
Daly’s film has a lot in common with Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. Both films took a cold hard look at the other side of the tracks, so to speak, and focused on characters that were either trapped or attempting to break free of their surroundings. Love conquers all in both films, even if the end result in Kisses is less miraculous.