From Ireland comes Kisses, a poignant little film about two abused runaways who spend Christmas night living by their wits on the streets of Dublin, learning by trial and error to depend on each other after they are rejected by the cruel adult world. Dylan (Shane Curry) is an 11-year-old with asthma whose older brother ran away two years earlier to escape their vicious father. His younger neighbor Kylie (Kelly O’Neill), living in a crowded house with five siblings and an overworked mother, is hounded and sexually molested by her uncle. Joining forces with only a pocketful of coins, they head for the big city on a canal barge to find Dylan’s missing brother. As the lights grow closer, the film takes on the gradual patina of color, signifying the hope of a new life. What they find at first is adventure (trying on clothes in a department store, skating through the traffic with Christmas lights attached to shoes with roller blades), but when night falls, their youthful excitement turns dangerous and terrifying as they encounter whores, kidnappers and pursuing cops; beg for money and food; and find themselves in an alley, forced to sleep in a box with a dead body. By the time the cops escort them back to the fringes of the city, they realize nothing has improved, but they’ve learned the value of a friendship more trusting and reliable than family, saving for each other the only tenderness they’ve ever known in their otherwise bleak lives.
Kisses arrives already bestowed with film festival prizes throughout the globe, but it is so small and one-dimensional that it disappears like cigar smoke in a pool hall, blending into a chiaroscuro haze. The kids make stunning debuts, but their accents are thicker than porridge, rendering a good 90 percent of the dialogue so unintelligible that it might as well be in Swahili. Some subtitles are provided out of necessity, but not enough.
Still, despite the film’s drawbacks, writer-director Lance Daly takes you on a tour of Dublin you’ll never see as a tourist, and examines the faces of the children with analytical close-ups that reveal their fear, bravery and surprising resourcefulness. It’s this wise mirror to the feelings of troubled children and life on the lam that makes Kisses a serendipitous journey worth taking.
Running time 72 minutes
Written by Lance Daly
Written and Directed by Lance Daly
Starring Shane Curry, Kelly O’Neill
2.5 Eyeballs out of 4