London Film Festival Review: Kicks

By Nick Deigman on 12 Oct 2009


Kicks centres around Nicole (Hayes), a lonely girl who has been forced to grow up very quickly in financial and emotional poverty. Her only passion is for Lee Cassidy (Doyle), Liverpool’s star midfielder, who also happens to be single. While waiting outside the gates of Anfield to catch a glimpse of her lothario, Nicole meets Jasmine (Burley), a WAG-in-training from a considerably more wealthy part of the city. Despite their cultural and class-based differences, the two hit it off immediately due to their shared passion for Cassidy.

As the girls try, in vain, to access nightclubs, VIP areas, and apartment blocks to feel closer to their obsession, so their friendship and trust for each other tightens. It is an uplifting story of how the seemingly unconstructive and much maligned institutions of premiership football and the cult of celebrity can actually bring two separate souls together despite their troubled backgrounds, loveless parents, etc .

The characters are entirely believable and their actions sincere to a fault. Anyone with a daughter or younger sister will know what it is to see teenage girls zip through this fleeting and defining period of their lives with the same wild swings of emotion and unexpected surges of kindness that these well-drawn characters embody. Nicole’s emotionally barren and impoverished background, with a criminal brother and invisible parents, is teased out subtly in Hayes quiet but powerful performance. And similarly, Burley’s upper-middle class, ‘nouveau riche’ princess, Jasmine, is brash and shallow (for her, Lee is more a flavour of the month than a reason for living), but she is still a caring and thoughtful individual who sees passed Nicole’s lack of glamour.

Heymann’s direction, for the most part, has a great feel for the pace and tone of the story it is telling, and also manages to relay this in its visual tone. But sadly, and not for the first time in this festival, the story is inherently flawed and undeserving of cinematic exhibition. The fatal blow occurs about an hour into the film, when the girls decide to kidnap Cassidy and force him at gunpoint to stay at Liverpool after reports he is leaving for Madrid.

This is an absolutely absurd, insincere turn of events, and it destroys the emotional gravity and the genuinely uplifting tone underlying the idea of the film. There is a desperate attempt to find a natural situation in which this turn of events could occur; they meet Cassidy drunk outside a hotel after an argument with a team mate, and his decision to go with them is admittedly quite believable. But this is all rendered useless by the simple fact that these girls would never act in this way, and they certainly wouldn’t be so casual about it.

This honest exploration of the unlikely friendship between to lost youngsters is lost forever in the quagmire that ensues: a static and meandering half hour during which they almost have sex with him, almost kill him, almost ruin his career, and almost destroy themselves. In the end, though, none of these things happen, and the only truly tragic thing about the ending is how detached and callous it feels when compared to the fantastic story that preceded it.


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