At the tail-end of a year where the only consistent emotion our native filmmakers evoked was disappointment, tinged with despair, comes an enchanting film brimming with heart and humanity. Writer and director Lance Daly’s low-fidelity fairytale Kisses is by some distance the best Irish film of 2008, a captivating story about youth, poverty, fear and Bob Dylan.

In a run-down estate somewhere on the outskirts of North Dublin, two pre-teen kids, Kylie and Dylan (Kelly O’Neill and Shane Curry) live next door to one another. Kylie lives with five other sisters and her overworked mother while Dylan tries to cope with his alcoholic father and despairing mother by losing himself in his video games. In the run up to Christmas, following a violent row with his father, Dylan decides to run away and brings Kylie with him. After boarding a canal barge, operated by a philosophical Brazilian, they make their way into the city centre to find Dylan’s older brother, who had fled the family home himself, two years before.

Once in the city, the earlier black and white images giving way to full colour, the kids spend their money on wheelie-sneakers, allowing them to roll their way through the streets, followed by Daly’s roving camera. These suburban kids are entering a strange world; they don’t know the city at all. They buy clothes, steal food and wander around the backstreets, but cannot find Dylan’s brother, although they discover he has been kicked out of a squat and is now homeless. As the night wears on, the kaleidoscopic images of a city filled with life and light taken on a darker tone as the two huddle together, swapping stories about the dreaded Sackman, a puca who bundles unguarded children into a black bag and steals them away to another world.

The two children give astonishingly natural performances, lacking all guile or pretension, their innocence and fear perfectly communicated by Daly’s carefully modulated emotional scheme and a script that crackles with razor sharp dialogue. Throughout, the director hints at the classics of children’s literature, from 'Babes in the Wood' to the old Walter Macken classic The Flight of the Doves, but his film is a entity all to itself, far more precise in its intentions and acutely observed than any contemporary Irish film. Winner of the Best Feature award at the Galway Film Fleadh earlier this year, Kisses is a terrific achievement, a fascinating film well worth seeking out.


miami manny said...

I agree 100% with the praise for this excellent film..

For (my wife and) me it was THE highlight of Miami International Film Festival (we viewed 10 films during these past 10 days).

My compliments to the director and his 2 wonderful young actors..

With thanks for a delightful hour and a few minutes..

Miami Manny

richardwatts said...

I share you esteem for this charming and beautiful film, which just screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival here in Australia. Without doubt one of the best of the 22 films I've seen at the festival over the past 12 days.