The Reel Affirmations International Film Festival kicks off Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the Carnegie Institution for Science (1530 P Street, NW) with screenings of “Kiss Me” at 7 p.m. and “I Do” at 9 p.m. Check back for reviews of all the weekend’s films, but we wanted to make sure you had a “heads up” on what to expect from the two opening night features. Visit reel affirmations.org for tickets.
“Kiss Me,” a 2011 piece that runs one hour, 45 mins. and is in Swedish with English subtitles, tells the unlikely love story of two step-sisters (don’t worry – they’re not related by blood). Frida is the daughter of Elisabeth and Mia is the daughter of Lasse. They meet at the elaborate 60th birthday party that Elisabeth throws for Lasse as a prelude to their upcoming nuptials.
Sparks quickly fly between the two women, and that’s when the trouble starts. Both women are in relationships. Mia is engaged to Tim and Frida is living with Elin. Both parents are understandably
upset, and Mia is forced to finally admit her bisexuality.
And that’s the problem with this lovely movie. The plot covers difficult emotional terrain (and there are also unexplored melodramatic hints at other dark hidden family secrets), but every obstacles falls away relatively easily. It’s not always smooth sailing for the new couple, but there’s little doubt how the story will end. We also never get a clue how the family will maneuver the awkward introductions at Lasse and Elisabeth’s wedding.
But, that’s ultimately a quibble when watching this lovely film. This is a movie to savor, basking in the beautiful scenery and the fine performances. Writer and director Alexandra Therese Keining moves the action forward smoothly, not rushing the emotional moments, yet never wallowing in the messy situations. Cinematographer Ragna Jorming beautifully captures both urban and rural landscapes. Jorming manages to make a wide variety of scenes look absolutely stunning, from candlelit gatherings to moonlight swims to bracing confrontations in the harsh light of day.
The entire cast is uniformly strong, especially Ruth Vega Fernandez and Mia and Liv Mjönes as Frida. They are ably supported by Lena Endre as Elisabeth, Krister Henriksson as Lasse, Joakim Nätterqvist as Tim and especially Josefine Tengblad as Elin, who shines in her few brief scenes as Frida’s spurned girlfriend. It would have been great to see more of Mia’s kid brother Oskar (Tom Ljungman), who drops out of the movie far too quickly.
“Kiss Me” is a thoroughly enjoyable movie, comfortably navigating its way between the high drama of a Bergman classic and the low drama of a Lifetime made-for-TV movie. (Brian T. Carney)
“I Do,” a 94-minute U.S. drama from director Glenn Gaylord, is an indie film about Jack (David Ross), a gay British photographer in New York who faces a sticky romantic mess with his Spanish architect boyfriend, Mano (Maurice Compte) as they both face immigration challenges, deportation threats and familial demands.
“I Do” rides a solid and assured balance between slick, well-crafted feature with just a smidge of B-level melodrama to keep it from feeling too self important. A few sub-par performances from bit players and some heavy-handed plot turns keep things from fully jelling — one wonders what a director like Steven Soderbergh or even Tom Ford might have done with the material — yet it remains a fully watchable and heart-tugging tale that mostly effectively dramatizes the unfair stress binational gay couples often face.
Writer/producer David Ross will appear for a Q&A after the screening, which will be moderated by Steve Ralls, director of communications at Immigration Equality. (Joey DiGuglielmo)