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Hal MacDermot [Film Festival 11.09.08] movie review drama

Year: 2008
Release date: Unknown
Director: Lance Daly
Writers: Lance Daly
IMDB: link
Trailer: N/A
Review by: cyberhal
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Time for a slice of Irish life that the tourist posters won't show you. Lance Daly's powerful new feature is a beautifully shot account of two 11 year old runaways on the unforgiving streets of Dublin. Amazing performances by child actors Kelly O'Neill (Kylie) and Shane Curry (Dylan), the film features a strong folksy soundtrack, and is reminiscent of Ken Loach's work in a film like Kes. Following the advice of Mike Leigh, who saw the movie at the Toronto Film Festival, the director/writer/cinematographer Daly has added subtitles which helps anyone not from Dublin to understand the thick brogue. When Kisses won best feature film at the Galway Film Festival this year, Focus Features acquired the rights, and with any luck it will pick up the same buzz that Once did and get into more cinemas.

The movie starts off in black and white, and that's the perfect way to depict the bleak lives of Kelly and Dylan in their God awful Dublin council estate hell. To be honest, quite a few English cities look like that too. The camera perfectly catches the kids' lives as they try to play kids games in a world that has no time for innocence (hiding in a cupboard to play a video game so you don't get slapped). With Shane's Dad about to beat the living crap out of him, and Kelly facing implied sexual abuse, the kids run off in a tense and frightening scene. As they leave home, we see the busy roads, electricity pylons and dead dogs that surround their homes.

Kelly and Dylan hitch a lift on a canal boat that dredges rubbish out of the water. Interestingly, the boatman is foreign, and in fact so is every person who helps them later, including an African prostitute and a polish busker. I asked Lance Daly about that in the Q & A after, and he said it wasn't something he could be sure about. I've thought about it since and I reckon it might be that love and kindness don't always come from where you expect, and Home is not always Home. Daly's message, if there is one, is definitely not all about how kind and happy Irish families are though. Daly said that the way he cast the kids was by interviewing thousands of kids in schools and picking the worst behaved ones; that's my kind of casting.

The kids make it to Dublin and explore the streets, buy cool training shoes with wheels on (wheelies) and generally mess around. One clever touch is that whoever they meet, it seems to have something to do with Bob Dylan and his songs. They even meet a sort of friendly Bob Dylan impersonator. At first the boy Dylan doesn't even know who the singer is, but by the end he's throwing glass bottles to defend the name. When they hit the city, colours leak into the film, with great emotional effect. There's never that much light in the film, and Daly told us he actually called up Declan Quinn, the cinematographer of Leaving Las Vegas, for a spot of advice. As the night progresses, the kids face progressively more dangerous situations, and turn to each other for the friendship, love and protection. Even when you have nothing, you can still give a kiss. This film is well-good, and I can't wait to see where the Director goes next.

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