When director Lance Daly conceptualized the new Irish film Kisses, Shane Curry and Kelly O'Neill must have been just the rough-around-the-edges street urchins he had in mind. Both breakthrough performances gave raw emotion to Daly's story of a ten-year-old boy and eleven-year-old girl living next door to one another on the fringes of Dublin.
Kylie is one of six siblings whose harried mother is oblivious to her traumas, while Dylan shields his hatred of an abusive father and the loss of a brother who ran away two years ago in silence and tough apathy. The asthma inhaler he sucks on in moments so terrifying its uselessness is palpable belies a level of vulnerability that the script never quite allows Curry to explore.
After Dylan intervenes when a fight between his parents becomes physical, he and Kylie run away in a moment of spontaneous invincibility, aided by a foreign dredger captain who gives them a lift into the city and teaches them about the great Bob Dylan, with whom our young hero shares more than a name. Their whirlwind adventure begins in ecstatic freedom, as Kylie's funds buy them light-up wheelie sneakers and new clothes, but nightfall promises the terrors that come with precociously claimed adulthood.
The film is nothing less than beautiful to watch, with subtle transitions from black and white to color and long, drawn-out sequences accompanied by a soundtrack more than able to support the cinematography.
Kisses was awarded best picture in Galway and Foyle and was selected for Locarno, Telluride, Toronto and London film festivals. Daly won best director at the 2009 IFTA, where Kisses earned 7 nominations. Kisses opens in New York July 16, with select other cities to follow.