Two poor Dubliners named Dylan and Kylie take it on the lam after having too much of the so-called adults in their preteen lives. Dylan’s dad is a violent drunk and next-door neighbor Kylie has her hands full with a rotten sister and an uncle whose hands are too full, too. What happens next is a daylong odyssey where innocence is never quite established and disillusionment is regularly visited. They’ve already seen so much, all the outside world can offer these tough kids is a sense of wonder.
It’s not likely to become the surprise Irish film obsession that Once was a few years back, but Kisses—which frequently requires subtitles to make its Irish English clear—further examines Dear Dirty Dublin, again finding poetry strewn around the abundant human refuse.
It would also be misleading to claim that writer-director Lance Daly has created some rich textual masterpiece of either metaphorical or documentary Irish truth-telling, though the distant echoes of Joyce’s Ulysses and Synge’s Playboy of the Western World are there for the eager explicators. What Daly has unquestionably achieved, however, is a bittersweet story told with a nicely conceived gimmick. The film begins in a grainy fog of black and white, and becomes more spectacularly saturated with color the farther the kids move away from their fallen folks. Of course, as the charmed voyage winds homeward, the colors are subtracted again. There’s also a nice host of running jokes—particularly the “cameo” of Bob Dylan in a downtown alleyway.
But there’s a tiny glimpse of salvation, too. The title implies a little more significance to lip-locking than the film bears out—though kisses have always been one of the great suspense elements in all cinema. What’s weird here, of course, is that these are kids, and no matter what else happens—from breathtaking rescues to lovely interludes skating across the mall—we want them to connect, yet still stay kids. When lips do meet, it’s nothing short of shocking and at the same time wonderful.