Kissing Candice (18)
Midway through this psychedelic odyssey – the hell that is modern Ireland – I found myself thinking how much Ann Skelly, its main star, resembled Lady Lavery. And how, if Lady Lavery was the iconic image of a more halcyon time, Skelly could go on to become the face of the not so brave new world we’ve now landed ourselves with.
In the past few decades we’ve seen Irish film become globalised. Before that, its influences tended to be indigenous. Here we see echoes of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, even German expressionism.
Writer/director Aoife McArdle has crafted a work that will shock many with its violence and coarse language – the contemporary vernacular. But it also exerts a hypnotic spell. Its sense of lethargy is intoxicating. So is the visual iconography, the crepuscular mood, the potent mix of tenderness and savagery.
Candice (Skelly) is a 17-year-old schoolgirl. She’s bored rigid by the seaside town where she lives with her father, Donal (John McKenna). He’s a police officer who’s obsessed with the disappearance of a local lad. He doesn’t let Candice out much. She has to resort to her imagination to achieve the thrills her hungry heart desires.
One of her fantasies is for a man. He materialises as Jacob (Ryan Lincoln). Later on she discovers he’s embroiled with a local gang of thugs. One has to be careful what one dreams for.
When he rescues her from a sexual attack by the thugs she warms to him. But has he something to do with the disappearance of the lad?
This is a A Clockwork Orange for the noughties, the disjointedness of the scenes mirroring the shiftlessness of the characters’ lives. They suffer from what T.S. Eliot called “a dissociation of sensibility”. Candice isn’t much more than a child, we should remember, but she’s been through more than most people three times her age.
“What have you taken?” Jacob asks her when she has a bad turn at a Halloween party towards the end of the film. “Everything,” she replies. The word sums up her life. She’s been guzzling whiskey and popping pills almost since the first scene.
This is a disturbing film but also a fascinating one. The incredible opening sequence – half dream, half nightmare – segues into an atmospheric landscape of crude dysfunctionality. This, sadly, seems to be all too reflective of the kind of country we witness in the news reports splashed across our television screens every other night, the horrific murders that assail us on the front pages of our evening papers as we sit down to tea.
You won’t come out of Kissing Candice feeling uplifted unless the brooding shadows of its cinematography uplift you. McArdle is a name to watch. So is Skelly. Together they manage to suck us into a Dante-esque inferno with the grip of a demonic vice.
This isn’t so much a film as an experience. Approach it guardedly.