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Kiss Of Life
cast: Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Peter Mullan, David Warner, Millie Findlay, and James E. Martin

director: Emily Young

84 minutes (12) 2003
widescreen ratio 16:9
Artificial Eye DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Young mother Helen is struggling to hold her family together while her husband, an aid worker, serves in somewhere very like the former Yugoslavia. When a rare phone call home alerts him to the imminent collapse of their marriage, John sets off through enemy territory, desperate to get back to London. But unknown to him, Helen has been killed in a hit-and-run accident. While her children and reserved, elderly father struggle to come to terms with their loss, and her husband battles to get home, Helen's ghost is trapped on the edge of their lives, trying to make contact - trying to help them forgive one another...
   Writer-director Emily Young won a BAFTA and a Cannes 2003 official selection for this taut drama, and it's easy to see why. Intimate, powerful, and emotionally ambitious, Kiss Of Life is an engrossing story of loss and hope. Peter Mullan and Ingeborga Dapkunaite are tremendously moving as a husband and wife who rediscover their love only when it's too late to reach other another through anything but dreams. Millie Findlay, as the daughter trying to hold the remaining family together, and James E. Martin, as the young son haunted by guilt about his mother's death, give terrific performances, ably supported by David Warner as their emotionally distant grandfather.
   Some of Helen's early afterlife visions are rather portentous, and John's nightmarish journey home never quite delivers the real physical danger it's continually promising, but the slow-burning passions build towards a terrific climax as grief gives way to forgiveness and hope. I defy anyone not to shed a tear by the time John finally makes it home - not least when, running across London, he passes the flowers left at the spot where Helen died without understanding their significance.
   This is the sort of story that British film does best - real passions in a real world just tinged with the supernatural and the strange. Despite the occasional weakness, this is a real treat from a promising young director.
   DVD extras include a director's commentary, a trailer, and two very interesting low-budget shorts that pick up Young's interest in family life and doomed attempts at communication.

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