Directed by Lance Daly
Emotions are never more intense than when you’re a child, before experience and maturity dilutes them and puts them into a larger context. Kisses captures that feeling eloquently in the story of two young friends who run away from their abusive homes to spend a night on the mean streets of Dublin, where poverty and predators create a similarly raw landscape (the accents are so thick that even though the film is in English, there are subtitles).
Kelly O’Neill and Shane Curry star as the kids, and the two are remarkably convincing and effective in their debut performances, keeping things grounded even when writer-director Lance Daly distracts by bringing in the occasional bit of magical realism. The film’s minor flaws come when it tries too hard for an effect, shoehorning in an awkward reference to sexual abuse and an unnecessary sequence when one of the kids is abducted and the other follows by hanging onto the back of a car Marty McFly-style. The film’s trim 75-minute running time results in this kind of material getting short-changed, and issue of sex crimes involving children is first on any list of things that should not be done as an aside. Besides, the glimpse we get of their home life is enough to explain what they’re running from.
Bob Dylan is a recurring motif in the film, appearing in the form of a tribute singer (Stephen Rea, as good as anyone in I’m Not There) and in the fawning accolades of strangers the kids encounter. It’s contrived, but affectionate covers of Dylan songs are a lovely way to punctuate a film. It helps that this is one place where Daly doesn’t insist on any specific deeper meaning.
Kisses starts and ends in black and white, with slow dissolves to and from color as the kids escape from and then return home. The changes in color correspond with the setting and rising of the sun, in sort of dolly zoom color effect that underlines where the heart of the story is, a heart that is exquisitely presented.
Opens July 16