DIR: Lindy Heymann
CAST: Kerrie Hayes, Nichola Burley, Jamie Doyle
Lindy Heymann’s feature debut is one of those happy little surprises that allow me, among the tidal wave of shit breaking over cinemas each week, to retain my faith in cinema. This low key little British film is hard to categorise (‘kitchen sink thriller’ is perhaps as close as I can accurately get to a generic label), but it showcases several intriguing new British talents and demonstrates that, when we’re not trying to play Hollywood’s game, we can still come up with original and exciting movies.
Kicks centres on two 15 year old girls; Nicole (Hayes) and Jasmine (Burley). They live in Liverpool, and are big fans of star player Lee Cassidy (Doyle). They bond through their similar family situations (both seem to be footnotes in their parents lives) ambitions (to marry a footballer, in Nicole’s case one specific footballer; Lee) and interests (Lee, in the main). Things begin to get out of hand, though, when news breaks that Lee has signed with Real Madrid, and the girls become desperate to stop him from leaving Liverpool.
Lindy Heymann, working with A Single Man cinematographer Edward Grau, has here crafted a beautiful film, which seems the work of not a first timer but a seasoned professional. The lingering extreme close ups that open the film are especially beautiful, as is its evocative and subtle final shot, but there’s a grimy beauty to the whole thing that manages to show Liverpool in an interesting and different light. There are many touchstones for Heymann’s style here; Andrea Arnold, Pawel Pawlikowski and Lynne Ramsay all spring to mind, but rather than ape them she manages to take some technique from those filmmakers while coming up with a look that does feel like her own for the film.
Heymann also seems to be a strong actors director, as she draws exceptional naturalistic performances from her two leads. Burley (who I’d only previously seen in the awful Donkey Punch) is great as the brash Jasmine, whose twin desires in life are a boob job for her 16th birthday and to become a WAG (British tabloidese for footballers Wives And Girlfriends), but it’s Kerrie Hayes who runs away with the film. A delicate, doll like, beauty, 23 year old Hayes is entirely convincing as a 15 year old and makes her shy, sad, obsessive character genuinely touching. Try as hard as you like, you simply won’t catch her acting here. It’s an exciting first leading role from a clearly very promising young actress.
The film does threaten to run off the rails in its third act. Having spent a long time setting up the characters, their isolation and their friendship in scrupulously realistic fashion the plot does become more outlandish when they finally encounter Lee Cassidy. However the strength of Burley and, especially, Hayes’ performances keep the film on track. Hayes is just heartbreaking in her last scene with Doyle, a real achievement because by this point you probably should have lost sympathy for her.
Kicks is a beautifully crafted little film, at just 82 minutes it’s a compact piece of work, and that means that there’s not a wasted moment here. It’s relatively slowly paced, as much a character study as a thriller, but it holds your attention from its first striking frame to its last, easily one of the best British films you’ll see this year, and highly recommended.