With a solid line up at this year’s Vancouver Queer Film festival and no room in my schedule to see as many films as I had originally wanted to; I was really looking forward to seeing Swedish subtitled flick Kiss Me on Thursday evening at the Cineplex Odeon International Village on West Pender Street.
Directed by Alexandra-Therese Keining, the opening scenes of the movie sees Mia (Ruth Vega Fernandez), a prominent architect in her thirties, put aside the years of emotional distance that has come between her and her father Lasse (Krister Henriksson) in order to attend his 60th birthday party. It is at this time that Lasse chooses to announce his wedding engagement to his partner Elizabeth (Lena Endre). We later discover that Lasse had an affair on Mia’s mother when she was younger, and this is what has caused their relationship to become so strained. At the party Mia quietly and curtly informs her father that she too is to be married to her boyfriend of seven years – Tim (Joakim Nätterqvist). Her father is overjoyed, obviously hoping that this will bring them and the family closer together. Mia has already been introduced to her sweet, friendly and soon to be stepsister Frida (Liv Mjones). We are made aware immediately of her almost childish dislike for her future stepsister. At first this could be mistaken for jealousy – Mia occasionally casts scornful looks in Frida’s direction and later becomes irritated when she sees the pretty blonde woman dancing with her fiancé, later accusing Tim of being flirtatious.
A few days later, Mia is forced to spend a weekend on an island with both Frida and Elizabeth after promising her father to help with an extension onto their summer house. Furious with her father for cancelling on the trip in favour of a business meeting, Mia barely hides her disdain for her soon to be stepsister on their trip to the island as they bicker and argue on their way there. However, it is becoming somewhat apparent that there is more than meets the eye with her feelings for Frida. This is evident as Mia tenderly pushes a strand of hair away from Frida’s face as they help each other light up their cigarettes that evening, so as not to have her hair come in the way of the flame.
As they are walking in the woods shortly after this, our suspicions are confirmed as Mia tentatively moves in and gently places a kiss on Frida’s lips. Frida, who we later find out, has long known that she is a lesbian, intimately reciprocates the passionate kiss confirming that she feels the same way. Despite the inner turmoil and guilt that is eating her up inside, Mia welcomes Frida into her bed the following night and they passionately make love, as Elizabeth sleeps surely not more than a room or two away.
Weeks later, after Mia and Tim have moved back to their apartment in the city, Mia’s younger brother Oskar whisks Tim away from a bachelor weekend. Frida, a schoolteacher, is in town with the children for a class play. During the time that has passed since their night together, Mia has been trying to get her life back on track and has attempted to forget what had happened. Her heart gets the better of her however and she shows up at the theatre where Frida’s class play is showing. Frida is elated and they spend a blissful weekend together. The audience is finally witness to a genuinely happy Mia. Gone is the uptight architect with a look on her face that would turn fresh milk sour, replaced instead with a lady who seems like a light has been turned on inside her, she has completely come alive. As their weekend together comes to an end, Frida and Mia part ways in the city and just as they are kissing goodbye, Tim drives by on his way home with Oskar. Tim catches sight of their goodbye kiss, and seems completely thrown by what he has just witnessed. He chooses not to tell Mia what he has seen, perhaps hoping that it meant nothing and that he could put it behind him.
A few days later however, as the couple attend a rehearsal meeting with the priest who is to carry out their marriage ceremony, Mia panics as the priest finishes with the words “Until death to you part. The End.” Quietly announcing that “she can’t”, she suddenly flees from the church.
She later arrives home to find Tim making paper planes with their wedding menus and tossing them from the top of the stairs. Heartbroken, he angrily lets Mia know that he saw her and Frida on the street and demands she leave their apartment.
The rest of the movie sees Mia, Frida and their family come to terms with what is happening. Mia – being a lady who had previously lived a structured, safe life where she did exactly what was expected of her at all times is now trying to adapt to this new situation and her love for Frida. Frida, having ended her relationship with her long-term live in girlfriend over her love for Mia, is equally forced to come to terms with this new unexpected situation.
The final scenes of the film find Mia finally convinced that she is doing the right thing. After keeping Frida hanging on a string as to whether or not she can commit to a relationship with her, she follows her to Barcelona and the film ends on a high note as they reunite on a building rooftop against the scenic backdrop of the Spanish city.
The acting in this movie was in my opinion, flawless – with each character being played with absolute conviction. The direction, perfect.
Having a few friends who have found themselves in similar situations that I had never really fully understood, I must admit that at times emotion crashed over me in waves as the film progressed. This was not a movie about a young girl exploring her sexuality but rather of a mature woman in her thirties who thought she had her life figured out, falling seriously, deeply in love with another woman without any warning.
If you have not seen Kiss Me already, I highly recommend putting it on your “One to Watch” list. Despite the predominant serious tone, light-hearted moments are intermittently dispersed throughout the film. It will make you laugh out loud, get your pulse racing during some of the more erotic scenes, and unless you are carved of stone, this film will completely move you as it moved the audience and me at the Odeon Cineplex last night.