On the run from a dreary Dublin housing project, Kylie and Dylan (played by two non-actors, Kelly ONeill and Shane Curry, plucked from Irish schools and oozing forlorn defiance) are a latter-day Hansel and Gretel who escape from black-and-white Loachian neo-realism into the junky beauty of an urban fairy tale. As the children hitch a boat ride from a kindly immigrant, writer-director Lance Daly dribbles in color until they land in a city teeming with nocturnal life and saturated with a velvety palette that recalls John Carneys lovely 2006 Irish musical romance Once. Bob Dylan, an unlikely fairy godfather channeled by Stephen Rea, sings the runaways through terrifying encounters with the bogeymen in and around them.
Kisses is far from the first, nor will it be the last, movie to suggest that for a growing army of neglected kids, life on the streets may bring more comfort than home does. But Daly is more aware than most that this romantic conceit can only be pushed so far before it starts serving a filmmakers aesthetic more than it does his subject. Drained anew of color, the movies ending may be less satisfying than that of Slumdog Millionaire, but it is truer to the tragedy of a generation of children whom we have utterly failed.
Aug. 6-12, 2010