Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dylan in Dublin: Kisses

Life in the Dublin suburbs is so depressing it must be filmed in black and white. At least the big city has color. There is also considerable danger for two innocent runaways getting their first taste of street life in Lance Daly’s Kisses (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Thanks to his abusive father, Dylan’s day-to-day life is worse than his neighbor Kylie’s. However, when her sexual molester uncle visits, all bets are off. One fateful day, Dylan gets into a knock-down drag-out row with dear old dad, escaping only through Kylie’s timely intervention. Before they can really think things through, they have hopped a barge heading down the river to the beckoning city.

Initially, the runaways are energized by Dublin’s vitality. Of course, as night falls, reality sets in. Yet, the two youngsters take strength from each other, while dodging sundry criminals and deviants. All the while, Bob Dylan, Dylan’s namesake, starts to take on talismanic significance for the lost preteens.

Coming late to the party, Kisses follows a bumper crop of resourceful kids-on-their-lonesome films, like the vastly superior Treeless Mountain and the perfectly respectable Children of Invention. In truth, Daly breaks no new ground with his runaway tale, recycling a number of clich├ęs along the way. However, Shane Curry and Kelly O’Neill are surprisingly compelling as Dylan and Kylie. In their debut performances, they never seem affected or self-conscious on-screen, showing some legitimate chemistry together.

Since there seems to be an Irish law mandating the presence of either Stephen Rea or Colm Meaney in every cinematic export, Kisses fulfills its duty with a Rea cameo as a Bob Dylan impersonator. In fact, he is pretty cool in the scene. However, the film itself is largely lost by this point in a disturbing sea of nocturnal predators, making Kisses definitely inappropriate for younger viewers.

There is a sweet purity to Dylan and Kylie’s relationship that is ultimately redemptive. While Curry and O’Neill prove to be fine actors, Kisses is so joyless, it is never able to overcome Daly’s been-there-done-that storyline. Notable mostly for the promise of its young leads, Kisses opens Friday (7/16) in New York at the Angelika.