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Directed by Lance Daly

Opens Aug. 20 at the Charles Theatre

Writer and director Lance Daly’s 2008 film Kisses looks a great deal like the cover of U2’s 1983 record War and feels the same too: young, angry Irish boy who has seen too much and feels more heartache than a kid should. Shot mostly in black and white and usually subtitled (the Irish brogue here is as thick as the swearing), Kisses follows two adolescents who escape their fucking depressing lives for a day in Dublin.

Dylan (played with a magnificent heaviness balanced with energy by Shane Curry) lives with his abusive “da” (Paul Roe) and abused ma (Neilí Conroy), who throws punches back but that doesn’t mean she protects Dylan. Oh, Dylan will break your heart with his steely eyes that look only straight ahead or at his Game Boy, rough language that calls out his bastard father for exactly who he is, and will to fight back.

Family life isn’t a whole hell of a lot better for neighbor and friend Kylie (played with a mixture of maturity and playfulness by Kelly O’Neill), whose father is in jail and mother a mean mess. Their neighborhood is completely stripped of color, plants or trees, and hope, and the only thing that differentiates one house from another is the random Christmas decoration. And shitty shit sucks harder during the holidays.

After Dylan has a major physical fight with his da and Kylie endures one more visit from her creepy uncle Maurice (Sean McDonagh), the two run away with some money she found in her older sister’s shoe. Cutting through industrial wastelands until they get to a canal, they have only smiled once 20 minutes into the movie.

Hopping on the tiny dredge driven by an initially reluctant participant in their trip to Dublin to find Dylan’s runaway older brother, Kylie proves both fearless and fun. Her sense of responsibility—to save herself and to protect Dylan—doesn’t crowd out her innocent urge to be delighted. The captain (David Bendito) seems to be the first person to notice these two are really just children and to treat them accordingly: He plays with them, sings a Bob Dylan song, and teaches them about the boat.

Sullen on the boat trip, Dylan’s cloud of despair lifts in the city as they finally act like kids—well, kids with stolen money—eating bags of candy and buying rollies (sneaker/skates). The sugar and freedom high sends them racing through a shopping mall and out on the lighted streets filled with people and color. It’s a holiday—it’s actually close to Christmas—but a short one. Searching for his brother and trying to stay safe in Dublin brings them back down to the dangerous world they live in, whether at home or on the run. Kylie says, “There is no devil, just people”—and she’s right. But what they find in themselves and in each other on their journey is a sense of survival and safety—perhaps for the first time.

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