Director: Aoife McArdle
Talent: Ann Skelly, Ryan Lincoln
Released: 22 June
The value of Kissing Candice is immediately apparent. For one, the film’s aesthetic is striking. It manages to negotiate a style that is both haunting and lush, calling to mind the sodium-lit, electro-fantasy quality that filmmakers like Nicolas Winding Refn have popularised in the past decade. The actors, while inexperienced, are clearly fresh and eager, and they all commit to portraying a kind of naive vulnerability that makes for uneasy viewing, an effective contribution to the pall of menace the film seeks to generate. The narrative itself is intriguing, drawing quickly on existential ideas about feminine adolescence, desire, familial inertia, the lure of death, alienation, violence, etc.
The problem, unfortunately, follows from what I said in the beginning. These qualities are all immediately apparent – once the initial period of intrigue dies down, what you are left with is an uneven and superficial experience. The major difficulty is consistency. The film does not know how to be what it wants to be. For instance, the film wants to be dreamlike, yes, but the hallucinatory material is sometimes the output of the protagonist’s imagination (her conscious effort), sometimes the product of her mental instability (an unwilled, unconscious experience), and at other times things happen ‘in reality’, which one could claim were contributive of a magical-realist style, but seem haphazard, without meaning, chosen for their visually-arresting character with little else to substantiate them.
You might think that the reality-fantasy ambiguity is productive, but it’s disorienting – you feel disconnected from the logic of the world we are in. In between scenes that begin to seem more like vignettes from music-videos, characters speak to one another in awkward, stilted dialogue.
A film full of promise, which withers quickly. But for all the frustration I had while watching, I’ll be interested to see what the director does next.
Words: Tom Lordan