A Thousand Kisses Deep – Review

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC A Thousand Kisses Deep - Review

A Christmas Carol with no muppets and a lot of pain.

Leonard Cohen’s ‘A Thousand Kisses’ deep will always hold a place close to my heart. Whilst watching the fedora wearing troubadour via a big screen at The O2, I was in the cheap seats, he recited the poem accapella. Drowned I was in his dark tones. When he finished my mum lent over to say “that was wonderful”. My dad lent over to inform me “me bum’s gone numb”. I lay somewhere between these sentiments.

It’s from this poem that lay the germ for the plot of  ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’ which sees Mia (Jodie Whittaker) physically travel back into her memories via the gift of the lift in her apartment building. It’s kind of like the part of Scrooged where he rides the elevator down to his own funeral. Now acting as a voyeur on her past she sees her relationship with Jazz trumpeter Ludwig (Dougray Scott) play out. With each new memory Mia delves further back in time covering decades until we see her as a child and leading the film down a very dark road which was most welcome and surprising.

As the film begins it has the feel of a BBC One drama, you know something  involving “relationships” is coming and the visuals aren’t overly cinematic. It quickly develops into a different animal altogether as Mia visits the apartment complex’s all seeing superintendent Max (played by should-be-national-treasure David Warner). We soon understand that this is not a straight forward romantic drama, so it’s a little jarring at first when we learn of the films plot conceit that Mia is using the lift to travel back through her past. The film never says it aloud but as soon that little plot device is brought in the dialogue become very cryptic and foreboding – “you mustn’t touch those”, “put them back you’ll change everything” and so on. Again it’s never really explained what would happen if you alter memories.

Some outlets have described ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’ as science-fiction. The relatively straight forward filming of the story lulls you into forgetting that the plot is very out there and it merges the genre admirably with domestic drama. Ludwig when first introduced comes across as a massive ego-centric moron in a pork-pie hat. I was a bit worried that I’d be stuck in his company for the remainder of the film. Luckily as the story unfolds we see Ludwig as a deeply troubled and troubling character that Dougray Scott manages to bring the correct amount of humuor and menace too. It’s his best performance since To Kill a King. Jodie Whittaker also manages to seemingly play several versions of the same character which works well in scenes where she is addressing herself in memory. Although a couple of those “no don’t do that you idiot” moments feel a little student film-like. The supporting cast all turn in very good performances – I could watch David Warner forever, Emilia Fox plays the bitchey distant mother well and Alan Corduner makes for one of the cuddliest barmen I can remember. Now Alan Corduner is a man who needs to get some bigger roles, he was fantastic in Topsy Turvey and Merchant of Venice.

A Thousand Kisses Deep ultimately turned into a pleasant surprise. From it’s humble beginnings as a potentially straight forward television-like drama it turns into something much more compelling and dark as it’s backwards story unfolds. Some of dialogue is clunky in places and some could see it as Eternal Sunshine-lite. Overall though A Thousand Kisses Deep is a compelling look at the benefit of hindsight and the murky power of love.

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