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January 25, 2005

Just a Kiss

2004.Britain.Loach

1.0 / 4.0

British social realist filmmaker Ken Loach tackles inter-faith marriage and the tension between progress and tradition in his newest, called Ae Fond Kiss... on The Isles and Just a Kiss everywhere else. Building on the central relationship, that between a Muslim man and once-Catholic lass, the film manages to induce several forms of boredom and may force some viewers to claw at their eyes and brain, all while maintaining that it is of the same calibre as the British “kitchen sink” dramas of the sixties. Did I mention that it’s a smashing disaster?

Loach has made some good films, as well as some bad ones, but this is his lowest point. Just a Kiss is a film that flies in the face of filmmaking. It’s over an hour and a half of talking heads (played by ex-models) spouting bland lines and expressing their love by spending much of their on screen time making un-erotic love to each other. That “he” wants to open a night club and “she” teaches music could have made for some touching, unique scenes in which two people share a passion for music. But that must have slipped Loach’s (or screenwriter Paul Laverty’s) mind, because it’s barely touched on. I’m not even sure why these people like, let alone love, each other.

The best scene of the film is its first, in which “his” younger sister (the film’s best character, who doesn’t make nearly enough appearances) gives a rousing speech in front of her high school class that ends in a chase through the halls and to “his” parked car. Excluding a later scene where “his” father beats up some windows, it’s the rare scene in Just a Kiss that involves action. If one were to write transcribe what actually happens in the film, leaving out dialogue, the result would be pages of walking, sitting, and riding in cars. The dialogue, as desired I guess, is realistic and uninteresting with a whole bunch of repetition. “Talky” films can, and do, work and ones like Closer are pretty darn good. But they’re not meant to be realist works. There lies the crux of Loach’s problem. Like theatre, these “stagy” films aim away from realism. For example, the dialogue in Closer, or a David Mamet film, is expressive and complex rather than naturalistic. There’s a reason why playwrights and screenwriters whittle away at their scripts until they achieve the largest amount of, and clearest, meaning in the shortest space possible. To use a Seinfeld analogy, the dialogue in a good play or “talky” film is fully comprised of “jerk stores”. It ain’t kinda like the stuff you hear on the street when your walking to the umm grocery store and stuff. And it doesn’t make things better that Loach is getting more preachy with age.

Just a Kiss is a terrible film.

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