Kiss of Life Review

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The action flits between Croatia, where an aid worker (Peter Mullan) journeys through war-torn landscapes, and London, where his family are coming to terms with a tragedy.


Stylish, compassionate and assured, Emily Young's first feature suggests a talent in the making; but for all its structural precision and emotional intensity, it lacks dramatic momentum and, ultimately, feels like a short that didn't know when to stop.

So many debuts are marred by directorial excess that it seems churlish to criticise a surfeit of restraint. Much of the problem lies in Young's decision to rely on nuance rather than occurrence in order to avoid the obvious melodramatics of her story. Thus, we don't really get to know the aid worker (Peter Mullan) or his wife (Ingeborga Dapkunaite) before we're pitched into their parallel turmoil, as her spirit holds a vigil over her grieving children after she's killed in a hit-and-run accident, and he risks his life trying to cross a war-scarred landscape to return to his neglected family.

While both storylines are initially intriguing and Mullan's on fine form, there's too much emphasis on style over content, with character development jettisoned for dream sequences, flashbacks and lingering close-ups.