A Thousand Kisses Deep

A Thousand Kisses Deep

**

Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Leonard Cohen’s poem may lend both title and voiced-over bookends to this London-set psycho-thriller, but there’s not much lyricism or satisfaction to be had in between.

The reliable Jodie Whittaker leads the estimable cast on a modern-day trip down the rabbit hole. She plays Mia, a nurse who is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s recent passing. Arriving back home after a night shift, she is nearly struck by a suicidal old woman slamming into the pavement from above. Shocked, Mia is then rocked to see the woman is surrounded by pictures of Ludwig, Mia’s former lover.

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Disturbed, she persuades her rather plush apartment block’s kindly caretaker Max (a gracious David Warner) to let her upstairs and into the old woman’s flat. She is further disoriented when she finds more of her own pictures and belongings inside. Max guides her back into his trusty elevator, going down.

She emerges to witness her younger self being seduced by the cavalier, jazz-trumpeting Ludwig (Dougray Scott). After seeing herself succumb to both his magnetic sexuality and brutal abuse, she is soon using the lift to shuttle further back in time. Revisiting her family, childhood events and horrible secrets which she sees have shaped her present, Mia realises a future that she may now have in her control.

The plotting is bold and deliberately structured yet, given the small cast and high drama of the set up, this is an oddly cold affair. We see the younger Mia treated deplorably, but as this is through the eyes of the older, surviving Mia, safely hidden or at a distance, neither ever seems in much peril for us to care. This sucks the tension from even Ludwig’s more impassioned scenes. Dougray Scott is dependably mercurial, though nothing convinces that he is so alluringly animalistic that Mia and any other woman must fall onto him at first sight.

In fact, Ludwig is so firmly presented that he is more bold cipher than rounded character. This applies to almost everyone Mia meets (again) and indicates how A Thousand Kisses Deep is best read. At heart, this is an imagining of the psychoanalytical process Mia’s going through as she confronts her mother’s death, or an abusive relationship or a childhood trauma, or all three. Max’s caretaker-counsellor escorts Mia deeper through her levels, his reductivist elevator taking her back to root causes, kisses and confrontations. Imagery abounds and as such little of what Mia sees is at all ‘real’, as it were, rather a light Kafkaesque expression of her journey.

It’s a concept that helps explain the stop/start nature of her episodic adventures, although it doesn’t excuse a jarring transition or two, and nothing overcomes the disjointedness that remains from early on. While director Dana Lustig avoids glossy sensationalism, that lack of urgency keeps us remote and unengaged. The cast work well, especially Jonathan Slinger as Mia’s father, yet no one can avoid some awkward dialogue. This feels like it would have worked better as a tight 60-minute TV drama, repeated to study and apply theory to rather than enjoy.

Reviewed on: 03 Oct 2011
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Caught in a timeless world of passions and betrayals, Mia searches for the truth behind a mysterious woman's death.
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Director: Dana Lustig

Writer: Alex Kustanovich, Vadim Moldovan

Starring: Jodie Whittaker, Dougray Scott, David Warner, Emilia Fox, Allan Corduner, Charlotte Lucas, Jonathan Slinger

Year: 2010

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: UK, USA

Festivals:

Raindance 2011

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