“Why did you kiss me?”
When the newly engaged Mia arrives at her estranged father’s house for his birthday celebration, she meets Frida. The daughter of her father’s fiance, Frida is a lanky blonde lesbian who immediately catches Mia’s eye. For Mia and Frida, everything is about to be upended as they embark on an illicit affair.
On the one hand, director Alexandra-Therese Keining has an amazing sense of the female body, of expressing desire through little more than a gesture. She also has a clear idea of how to shoot a love scene between two women in which the technical physicality is not only completely realistic but it is also emotionally charged.
On the other hand, as an openly gay woman I have to ask the question – isn’t anyone else tired of this story line? Kiss Me, at first glance seems like a more sexualized version of the romantic dramedy, Imagine Me & You, starring Lena Headey and Piper Perabo, in which a heterosexually involved woman meets and falls in love with another woman.
But, thankfully, that’s where all comparison falls away.
Kiss Me is probably one of the most fully rounded lesbian-themed films to be produced in recent years complete with rich, detailed characters. Combined with the chemistry between the two leads, the cinematography and screenplay, Kiss Me deals with the relationship between Mia and Frida in a realistic and fearless manner.
Both women are meeting at inopportune moments in their lives: Mia is about to be married, Mia’s father is about to marry Frida’s mother, and Frida is in a relationship of her own. Neither of them are looking for what happens. It’s messy and sexy and inescapable. Just like real life. The ridiculously attractive leads, Fernandez and Mjönes, are completely capable of providing performances that convey their characters various flaws and quirks.
Kiss Me also features a terrific soundtrack with songs by Jose Gonzalez (“Lovestain“), Robyn (“With Every Heartbeat“), The Perfect Kiss, and Kultiration (“Seen and Gone“). Proving, yet again, that the music selected for a film impacts everything about the film as an overall experience – the emotion, the energy, the pace. In Kiss Me, the music lends that hunger and burst of hope so often intimately linked with love. This makes it absolutely crucial.
Even on a smaller indie-sized budget, I think it behooves film producers to take a strong look at their scoring and soundtrack options. While directors like Donna Deitch (Desert Hearts) are known for spending a huge chunk of their production budget on music licensing, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s required and that’s not what I’m suggesting.
To underestimate the power of music in a film is pretty damn close to blasphemy, in my book. I’m happy that, for the most part, Kiss Me gets it right.
The lighting and cinematography play a critical role in Kiss Me. Ragna Jorming, the cinematographer for Kiss Me, frames shots carefully and is unafraid of over saturating them in light when Mia and Frida are alone together, with everything laid bare between them. There is nothing to hide and no way to hide it if there was.
The filming locations don’t hurt, either.
When you are confident enough to strand your lead characters on an island with no chance of escape, some people might call you lazy. I call you awesome. After all, you’ve just forced your characters into a situation where they are surrounded by water. What better metaphor for Mia, for Frida, and their transitory, fluid positions in life?
A favorite moment in Kiss Me is about 30 minutes in. The women have just shared a kiss in a small boating shed after night fishing. Frida’s mother interrupts them and together, they start to head home on their bikes. As Frida maneuvers the bike they share, Mia’s arms wrap around her waist. Mia leans her head against Frida’s back, nestling in and closing her eyes. The director focuses on Frida’s face and there is this look – it is so pure – of complete and utter contentment.
It’s lovely and the film is peppered with great moments.
There’s nothing clean about Kiss Me. People fall in love. People get hurt. Relationships are built and broken. You aren’t going to come away from this film untouched.
It’s definitely my favorite film on the The Top 20 Sapphic Moments in Cinema.
Behind the Scenes:
Wiki facts: Kiss Me
Is Kiss Me rotten or fresh?