Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Just as awarding Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize less than a year after his Presidential inauguration spoke as much to his promise and potential as to his actual achievements in office, declaring Liverpool the European Capital of Culture for 2008 was not just an acknowledgement of the city's past contributions to the world of art, literature and sport, but also a spur to further cultural endeavours – and accordingly cinema has been celebrating the city ever since, be it Terence Davies' Of Time And The City (2008), David Morrissey's Don't Worry About Me (2009) and Lindy Heymann's debut Kicks.

One of three scripts (along with Of Time And The City and Lawrence Gough's Salvage) to be awarded a £250,000 microbudget under Northwest Vision & Media's Digital Departures scheme, Heymann's film is all at once a sensitive coming-of-age drama, a mildly implausible abduction thriller, a bittersweet love letter to Liverpool, and an exploration of our contemporary celebrity-worshipping culture. This last theme explains the film's working title Starstruck, but the more generic sounding Kicks turns out, in retrospect, to be far the better name, gradually assuming a multivalence that ties up several of the film's motifs.

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Quiet 15-year-old Nicole (Kerrie Hayes) is madly in love. Left to her own devices by a mother who is always out working shifts, and by a father who is more interested in his new wife and children, she focuses all her energies into the adoration of Premiership midfielder Lee Cassidy (Jamie Doyle). Waiting outside the gates of Anfield to catch a glimpse of the star player, Nicole meets the spoilt but similarly neglected Jasmine (Nichola Burley) who, in her narrow ambition to become a 34DD WAG of leisure, has also fixated on Cassidy as her ticket to a better life. Despite differences in class and confidence, the two girls quickly bond, and together create a 'home away from home' in the dockside trailer left vacant (but for a mess and a loaded gun) by Nicole's soldier brother, currently serving abroad.

The pair's fantasies about Cassidy receive a new sense of urgency when it is announced that the footballer is transferring to Real Madrid – and so the girls set about finding a way to persuade him to stay. Over one long night, they will finally meet their idol, and learn some painful lessons about who he is, who they are, and how much difference there can be between childish dreams and adult realities.

As a study of the mirage of celebrity and the emptiness of fanaticism, Kicks is frank, insightful and hard-hitting – and while by the end it is certainly flirting with genre (without ever quite descending into the unhinged excesses of Misery or The Fan), these latter thrills remain bound to reality by the two girls' naïveté, vulnerability and yearning, so keenly observed in the opening half.

When coupled with Eduard Grau's ethereal camerawork and the haunting acoustic folk of Dan Glendining, Kerry Hayes' dreamy performance ensures that what might have been an altogether tawdry tale is instead shot through with a melancholic lyricism that ensures we keep taking the characters seriously, even as their behaviour drifts in to the penalty area. After all, we are judging them not just for what they are but for what they have the potential to become.

Reviewed on: 14 Oct 2009
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When a footy star announces a transfer abroad two female fans aim to change his mind... no matter what.
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Director: Lindy Heymann

Writer: Leigh Campbell, from a story by Laurence Coriat

Starring: Kerrie Hayes, Nichola Burley, Jamie Doyle, Laura Wallace, Sarah Jane Buckley, Nick Moss, Derek Hicks, Gary Cargill, Chris Lindon

Year: 2009

Runtime: 81 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2009
London 2009

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