The sweetest runaways you'll ever meet are pre-teens Kylie Lawless (Kelly O'Neill) and Dylan Dunne (Shane Curry) who ditch their rundown housing project in suburban Dublin for an adventure in the bustling Irish city during the Christmas holidays. Irish filmmaker Lance Daly's delicate movie earns comparisons to recent arthouse smash Slumdog Millionaire due to its tale of young romance in the face of poverty. Daly makes great use of the Dublin city center and a beautiful score, similar to the intimate Irish romance Once. Oscilloscope Pictures has a critics' favorite on its hands and strong word of mouth is likely when it opens Kisses via a limited platform release in early 2010.
The adventure begins during a frequent family argument with Dylan's drunken father (Paul Roe) trying to punch his way through a bathroom door in order to get at Dylan. Escape for the boy comes via Kylie and a wobbly ladder and the two friends soon hitch a ride to Dublin on a dredger. Once in Dublin, the young runaways meet a street musician, a friendly prostitute and a Bob Dylan impersonator. Through it all, even during a tense finale involving an attempted kidnapping, Daly maintains a spirit of magical realism.
Daly makes a courageous decision to cast young non-actors as his leads and his decision pays off handsomely. Shane Curry has a quiet intensity that compliments his shyness around Kylie and fear for his violent father. When he holds his asthma inhaler you see just how delicate he is. Wearing a pink jumper that resembles the shag of a dyed toy rabbit, Kelly O'Neill is the firecracker of the film, a headstrong pixie clear in her affection for Dylan. They are perfect in the roles and the bright source of the film's romantic spirit.
Beautiful black and white photography (also handled by Daly) slowly evolves into color once the adventure is underway-it's a nice gesture to The Wizard of Oz.
The film's most tender moments involve nighttime play on an empty skating rink and a shared bottle of beer in a Dublin alley. In the film's final moments, when Kylie blows Dylan a kiss, all the bleakness in their young lives turns sweet and romantic.
Kisses is Daly's third feature film but looks to be his first shot at attracting a sizable U.S. following. Different from his previous movies, Daly shows a talent for romance in scenes where his young heroes glide down the Dublin streets wearing skate shoes. When Dylan and Kylie kiss, chimes are heard, color enters the picture and their young cheeks turn rosy. It's sentimental but works perfectly,
Marketing that plays up comparisons to Slumdog Millionaire and Once will increase Kisses' chances at crossover business. Either way Kisses will become one of the higher performers for the fledgling NY-based distributor Oscilloscope and a strong calling card for Daly.
Distributor: Oscilloscope Pictures
Cast: Kelly O'Neill, Cathy Malone, David Bendito, Paul Roe and Shane Curry
Director/Screenwriter: Lance Daly
Screenplay: Peter Morgan
Producer: Lance Daly and Macdara Kelleher
Running time: 72 mins
Release date: Unset January 2010