Runaways Find Puppy Love in Coming-of-Age Road Flick
Although it is the height of the holiday season in Ireland, there is precious little Christmas spirit glowing in the hearts of either Dylan (Shane Curry) or Kylie (Kelly O’Neill). These abused adolescents are next-door neighbors stuck in a soulless housing project in a rough suburban neighborhood where you have to be tough to survive.
The two are well aware of their dire straits, since at the point of departure she informs her obviously-infatuated admirer that, “I’m not marrying you if we have to live in a kip like this.” Little do they know how soon they are to set out in search of such circumstances.
With her father in jail, Kylie’s become fed up with her home situation, between always having to babysit her younger siblings and being pressured by her mother (Cathy Malone) to kiss her gross Uncle Maurice (Sean McDonagh). Things are worse, if anything, across the alley for Dylan whose plight comes to a boil when he has to crack a bottle over his dad’s (Paul Roe) skull to get him to stop punching his mom (Neili Conroy).
That only enrages the foul-mouthed wife beater and the boy barely avoids his wrath when the eavesdropping, enterprising Kylie leans an escape ladder against the house. Equally fed up with their dysfunctional families, the two decide to run away to Dublin where they hope to crash at the crib of Dylan’s big brother, who already had the good sense to flee from his crazy clan’s insanity a couple of years earlier.
This is the point of departure of Kisses, a coming-of-age road flick directed by Lance Daly (The Halo Effect). The bittersweet romance drama unfolds over the course of one very eventful night during which Puppy Love blossoms between our hardy pair of wanderers with considerable assistance from serendipitous serenades coming courtesy of the haunting strains of Bob Dylan songs.
Whether it’s the captain (David Bendito) of a boat they hitch a ride with, a Dylan impersonator (Jose Jimanez) panhandling on the street, or the front man (David Rea) of a Dylan tribute band, it seems that they can’t get away from the folk icon’s music. What’s funny about this is that Kylie is too young to know who Bob Dylan is, and asks “Who the eff is that?” when asked if her beau was named after him.
In any case, for better or worse, our intrepid protagonists soon discover that it’s not easy for tweeners to fend for themselves in the big city, even if they cross paths with the proverbial prostitute with a heart of gold (Elizabeth Fuh). For there are unspeakable evils lying in wait, including rapists, kidnappers and the Sack Man (Willie Higgins), a fabled serial killer who might be more a fabric of their imagination than real.
Carried by gifted untrained leads who turn in inspired performances in their acting debuts, this raw tale of woe ultimately proves to be as riveting as it sobering about the prospects for youngsters caught up in predicaments similar to Dylan and Kylie. A Xmas where neverending nightmares instead of sugarplums dance in children’s heads
Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated In English with subtitles
In black & white and color.
Running time: 72 Minutes
Distributor: Oscilloscope Laboratories