Daly's vision is a darkly lyrical venture, evoking the whimsy of childhood in a starkly bleak and cruel world. His manipulation of color in the film is especially striking, as the images onscreen mirror the emotions at play and the tone of the children's experiences. The universe Daly crafts is black and magical, making the film haunting and relatable.
The direction is not the only standout in "Kisses," as the most exciting aspect of the film is its two leads. Curry and O'Neill are a joy to watch, bringing depth and multidimensional interest to their characters. Their portrayals are raw and real in ways that many actors with much longer résumés dream of achieving. The film's material is often challenging, yet the two tackle it with seeming ease to create compelling characters that are sympathetic and captivating.
One of the few drawbacks of the film is the difficulty American audiences might have with the heavy Irish accents of the protagonists. While this occasionally makes the words difficult to understand, the emotions are all there, and the local intonations merely add to the authenticity of the characters. Additionally, the vision of Ireland relayed in the film is one not often portrayed, and as far from leprechauns, castles, and "The Quiet Man" as it can be. Dublin is seen to be a complex and perilous place, a landscape comprising wonder and terror.
The children's encounter with a man who may be Bob Dylan is an especially magical scene, pulling together the threads that run throughout the film: the wonder and innocence of youth coupled with the harsher realities of a violent and adult world. The children navigate their trials with all the vitality their age warrants and gain more wisdom than their brutal and irresponsible parents ever exhibit. The film is a delight; if it is not always easy to watch, it is well worth viewing as a thoughtful reminder of the power of children to mediate even the most dire of situations with bravery, gumption, and what is often all they have to offer: kisses.
Genre: Drama. Written and directed by: Lance Daly. Starring: Shane Curry, Kelly O'Neill, Paul Roe.