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TORONTO 2017 Discovery

Kissing Candice: Defeating bleakness with a dream


- TORONTO 2017: Debutant Aoife McArdle delivers a convincing coming-of-age romantic drama that blends thriller and crime elements, and is set in the midst of a most violent period

Kissing Candice: Defeating bleakness with a dream

Northern Irish director and scriptwriter Aoife McArdle has already forged a career in music videos, having collaborated with Bryan Ferry, Jon Hopkins and James Vincent McMorrow. Her 2015 short film Every Breaking Wave, which was commissioned for the U2 song of the same name, offered her exposure to a wider audience, including celebrated film directors. Kissing Candice [+see also:
interview: Aoife McArdle
film profile
 is McArdle’s feature-length directorial debut and had its world premiere in the Discovery section of the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival.

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Candice (Ann Skelly) is 17 years old and lives in a small seaside town by the Irish border. She wants to escape from her boredom, and her only way out are her dreams, which are getting more and more intense due to her chronic seizures. In her dreams, she always meets a strange but handsome boy. Unexpectedly, she encounters this imaginary boy in real life: Jacob (Ryan Lincoln) will initially try to avoid her, but Candice wants to indulge her obsession with him. Their encounters will not be devoid of danger, however, as she will become involved with a local criminal gang.

Kissing Candice is an intense and appealing coming-of-age drama that blends thriller, crime and realistic elements to unfurl an unconventional love story between two outcasts. Candice, emotionally portrayed by rising star Skelly, needs some hope in the bleakness of her life, as her family and friends seem extremely distant. Jacob, imposingly depicted by newcomer Lincoln, is the perfect stranger who brightens her dreams, but in reality, he is just as gloomy as everyone else. As an archetypical tragic heroine, Candice needs to find a hiding place to avoid her darkness, but she is also willing to be drawn towards Jacob’s false glimmer of hope. For her Irish, suburban Romeo and Juliet adaptation, McArdle, who also penned the script, succeeds in impressing by using a perfect pair of anti-heroes in a hostile landscape during a period that is even more violent than the Troubles.

Despite the fluidity of the film’s genres, McArdle’s cinematic influences are far more realistic. Following in the footsteps of acclaimed female directors like Clio Barnard and Jane Campion, she creates a real world that lies on the borderline of fiction – or vice versa. The visual texture, and to some extent the subject, might share a hint of Lynne Ramsay’s and Andrea Arnold’s early neorealistic works, but Kissing Candice takes a different approach. The screen is McArdle’s extended canvas, and thanks to her immersive, choreographed tracking camera, which observes her heroes in 360°, and Steve Annis’ cinematography, with its intense palette of dark colours, taking in every single hue of crimson, she intensifies the crossover between hallucinations and reality. Furthermore, Anthony Moore’s sound design and Jon Clarke’s emphatic, vivid score overlap to enhance the narration, providing a deeper emotional layer. Through this bold statement of a film, McArdle offers us a flavour of what to expect from her in the near future.

Kissing Candice is an Irish-British co-production by Andrew Freedman (Venom Films) and Sally Campbell (Somesuch & Co), shot on location in Ireland and supported by the Irish Film Board. The world sales are handled by London-based firm Film Constellation.

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