Director: Lance Daly; Release date: 5 June
Kisses is director Lance Daly's third film and, given the positive feedback at international film festivals, it could be a major breakthrough for him.
Dylan, an 11 year old and his 10 year old best friend Kylie (both acted superbly by kids chosen from local schools rather than specialist acting schools) run away from home in search of Dylan's brother, when his drunken father's violence explodes with particular force.
Home is a dreary and impoverished wasteland on the outskirts of Dublin. This early part of the film is shot in black and white, which accentuates a world of drunkenness, domestic and sexual violence. This changes as the children run away from this world and hitch a ride down the River Liffey on a dredger. Here we enter into a colourful urban fantasy which shows both the excitement and terrors of inner city Dublin.
The night the children spend exploring the streets of Dublin is portrayed as a fairy tale. However, Daly never becomes sentimental even when he shows the two of them surviving and getting by due to the kindness of strangers, many of whom are themselves outsiders. Daly's Dublin is an exciting multicultural city, but with an underbelly of poverty and violence. His love-hate relationship with the city is clear throughout.
There are a number of areas that stand out to make watching this film a highly satisfying experience. Firstly, the film is shot from the children's point of view and Daly shows the development of their relationship and the difficulties of coming to grips with adolescence, without a hint of ever patronising the characters. The script is sharp, at times very funny and also tense in parts. The timing at 72 minutes is spot on and the pacing of the film is such that at no stage does your mind start to wander. The dramatic tension is accentuated by Daly's use of colour and lighting as the evening unfolds.
The two children dominate the film and their performances are superb, particularly that of Kelly O'Neill as Kylie whose character shows a highly effective combination of great insights and naivety. The tenderness between the two children is at odds with the world they have escaped from and the one they are seeking in Dublin.
Daly uses the music of Bob Dylan as a theme throughout the film as a metaphor for self-exploration. He sent the finished cut to Dylan's manager, with the music and use of Dylan's image included, and asked for permission then rather than from the outset. Fortunately, Dylan's manager loved the film and has apparently been very supportive of the project.
The version I've seen is subtitled as there has been feedback about the difficulty of viewers coming to grips with the children's strong Dublin accents. On the advice of Mike Leigh, Daly has decided to use selected subtitles when it hopefully goes on general release.
This is a film to look out for and hopefully it will not be restricted to the arthouse circuit, as it deserves to be seen by many. With a 15 certificate I would recommend this to teenagers as well as adults.