Rating: 4 out of 5
Kisses opens bleakly, depicting the oppressive and abusive domestic circumstances of the film’s two child protagonists, Dylan (Shane Curry) and Kylie (Kelly O’Neill).
Writer-director Lance Daly purposefully washes out the colour in the first stanza, using a drab black-and-white palette to represent the monochrome despair of the world these children live in.
After a scrappy altercation with his father, Dylan and the similarly disenfranchised Kylie decide to take flight to inner-city Dublin in search of Dylan’s elder brother, who also ran away from the drudgery of their sink estate years earlier.
As Dylan and Kylie get further and further away from the futile abjectness of their homes, colour slowly seeps into the narrative, figuratively and literally. The formerly dreary greyscale slowly morphs as iridescent hues begin to illuminate the film. When the kids reach finally reach the big city, Daly takes great pain to display the chromatic vividness of the sights and sounds of Dublin in all its majesty.
In the kids’ escapist fantasy, Dublin looks like a blissful wonderland, full of possibility and free from the unyielding joylessness of home. However before long, their carefree adventure turns into a struggle to survive a terrifying night on the seedy streets.
Kisses is a coming-of-age story much in the vein of The 400 Blows. It is a sympathetic and heartbreaking look at adolescent anxiety that is at once immensely naturalistic and incredibly resonant. Daly employs a quasi cinéma vérité technique that manages to capture the subtle emotiveness of the child actors remarkably.
Curry and O’Neill are revelations in their respective acting debuts. Both manage to convey so much with so little. With just a simple look, the pair are able to express the naiveté, tenderness, desperation and hope (sometimes simultaneously) that represent their characters’ journey.
Early in the film, the children are introduced to the music of Bob Dylan via a friendly harmonica-playing immigrant. Bob Dylan’s seminal Shelter from the Storm aptly becomes the thematic anchor of Kisses as our young protagonists discover themselves and their love for each other “in a world of steel-eyed death and men who are fighting to be warm.”
Clocking in at 72 minutes, Kisses is bare in every sense of the word. Due to its brief running time, one inevitably wishes that Daly could have fleshed out the film a little. Despite (or perhaps because of) its abridged length, Daly’s less is more approach still charmingly captures that sense of innocence lost and affection found effectively.
As one character explains, “I’ve nothing else to give, only kisses.” Sometimes the best kisses are the short, sweet ones, the ones that give you inspiration and leaves felicity lingering in the pit of your stomach.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, aka inSing.com's Movie Lover, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for Metrowize Asia.