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“Kisses,” with Performances That are Anything But Childish

“Kisses,” with Performances That are Anything But Childish (photo)

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I don’t know how or why — maybe it’s something in the water or a some kind of atmospheric byproduct of global warming — but all of a sudden, Ireland is a hotbed of child acting talent. Earlier this summer, Colin Farrell and Alicja Bachleda were repeatedly upstaged by ten-year-old Alison Barry in Neil Jordan’s “Ondine.” Now, in the new Irish film “Kisses,” two untrained child actors, Kelly O’Neill and Shane Curry, give the sort of naturalistic performances that professional actors spend years trying to perfect.

Curry plays Dylan, a shy kid who lives in a house in the suburbs with his mother and abusive father. O’Neill’s outgoing Kylie lives next door with her own family and her own troubles. After one particular brutal fight with Dylan’s dad, the two run away from home. They make their way to Dublin in search of Dylan’s older brother Barry, who ran away himself two years earlier.

Writer/director Lance Daly shoots the bleak introductory scenes in cold black-and-white, then slowly adds a little more warmth and color with each successive scene, as Dylan and Kylie embrace their newfound freedom on the streets of Dublin.

07152010_kisses2.jpgLike the land of Oz in the similarly color-coded “Wizard of Oz,” Dublin isn’t all heartwarming misadventures and cutesy life lessons.There are real dangers in the city as well, just as dark as anything they’d encountered with their families. The ultimate lesson isn’t quite “There’s no place like home” — home is still a pretty horrible place; more like “There are worse places than home, so you’d best be prepared for them.”

Along their journey, Dylan and Kylie encounter a series of adults, some who impart wisdom, others who threaten violence. But “Kisses” never focuses on anyone but these children for longer than a scene or two, and if they didn’t make us believe the strength of their characters’ friendship and the depths of their heartache, the entire film would collapse. O’Neill and Curry pull it off, with an onscreen authenticity that’s rare amongst children their age.

These kids are endlessly watchable, which is fortunate for “Kisses,” since the movie is basically 75 minutes of watching them. O’Neill, in particular, seems like a born actor: charismatic, charming, and utterly lacking in self-consciousness, though some amount of credit has to go to Daly as well for writing a script that understands her character and for coaxing such a marvelous performance out of her.

07152010_kisses1-1.jpg“Kisses” is the sort of understated film that looks incredibly easy to make but isn’t. Producing an engaging movie with a scope this small requires the precision of a watchmaker: a single miscalculation can throw the entire mechanism off. That’s how so many similar films about precocious kids learning about life wind up as melodrama, or camp, or sentimental pap. “Kisses” never does.

The film’s title comes from a conversation Dylan has with a woman he meets in Dublin. After he sees her with a man, she explains their relationship. “When you kiss, you give or you take,” she says. When you make movies, you do the same thing. “Kisses” may take some of its structure and visual style from other films, but the performances from those young actors are most certainly a gift.

“Kisses” opens in New York and Los Angeles on July 16th.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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