Kisses can hold a powerful meaning behind them, based on the context in which they are given. The 2008 Irish drama ‘Kisses,’ written and directed by Lance Daly, is getting ready to jump the Atlantic Ocean to America, and seems to want to prove that people’s intentions transcend culture. Kelly O’Neill and Shane Curry, two inner-city Dublin teens with no acting experience between them, play the two main characters in the movie, adding to the air of innocence and good intentions.

After premiering at the Galway Film Festival in 2008, and later being picked as an official selection at the Locarno, Toronto International, Telluride, Miami and Seattle International Film Festivals, ‘Kisses’ seemed destined from the start to be a popular movie with fans around the world. Even though coming in at a mere 75 minutes, much shorter than most American movies, the advertisements for ‘Kisses’ focuses on how teens can cope with family matters in a short period of time.

‘Kisses’ follows Kylie (played by O’Neill) and her next-door neighbor, Dylan, (portrayed by Curry), who live in the poorer outskirts of Dublin. Neither has friends in the outside world or within their families, as Kylie doesn’t get along with her four siblings, and Dylan is abused by his father after his older brother runs away. 

After Dylan gets in trouble with his father yet again and Kylie saves him, the two decide to runaway themselves. They try to find his brother on the streets of Dublin. While Kylie has no intention of returning home, they come to discover how dangerous the big city is without their families there to protect them.

While Daly strives to prove that children from all walks of life all over the world don’t always get along with their families and sometimes want to run away from home, ‘Kisses’ falls short of portraying teen angst. While both Kylie and Dylan both genuinely seem to dislike their families, their night in Dublin seems more like a first date for two friends who were always afraid to admit their feelings than a real attempt to break free from their home lives. 

Dylan also doesn’t seem to know what he wants. While he wants to escape the wrath of his father’s abuse, he seems too eager to change his mind about going back home after he and Kylie get off to a rough start trying to find his brother. Kylie seems to want to stay away from home more so than Dylan. The reason why is questionable, as her home life wasn’t as heavily discussed as Dylan’s, and therefore doesn’t seem as bad.

Despite these fallbacks, Daly redeemed himself by casting newcomer O’Neill as Kylie, who seemed to understand what it meant to live with a down-on-their-luck large family that can’t catch a break. In order to cast the misfit lead actress, Daly told the View Oxford that he went to numerous schools in Dublin and picked out the worst behaved students to audition. Dylan added that he picked O’Neill not only because she was smart, but she also had an “immediate intuitive understanding of what acting really is.” Her instinctive understanding of teen angst resulted in a nomination for Best Actress in a Lead Role in a Film at the 2009 Irish Film and Television Awards.

‘Kisses’ also succeeded in the fact that O’Neill and Curry, two eleven-year-olds, were able to take on the responsibility of being the main characters, as their characters’ families have little screen time. Being so early in their careers and not having the guidance of more experienced actors to show them their craft, and still being able to create instant chemistry on-screen together, proved that both correctly chose their careers. 

The black-and-white to color transition used throughout the movie was also an effective way to show what the young characters were feeling. When both Kylie and Dylan were with their respective families, Daly used a muted black-and-white color scheme, representing the teens’ desolate feelings.  They both felt isolated from their families, as well as other teens, as the only attention they received was negative. 

But when Kylie and Dylan came together and started their journey into Dublin, Daly discreetly started adding color. Daly was able to subtly show that the two only felt alive when they were with each other. 

With a scheduled release date of July 16 in New York, with other select cities to follow, anyone interested in seeing the sights of Dublin will enjoy ‘Kisses.’ Parents may be hesitant to allow their pre-teens to watch the movie, as there is a brief scene of nudity, some coarse language, themes of family violence and abuse and Dylan and Kylie being given a beer by a Bob Dylan impersonator.  However, the overall theme that all teens, to some degree, want to be with their family, no matter what happened between them.

Written by: Karen Benardello

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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