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Ins and outs of the twenties

Category: One More Kiss Reviews
Article Date: February 17, 2000 | Publication: The Times (London) | Author: Nigel Cliff

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MORE NEW FILMS: Look elsewhere for a date movie this week, warns Nigel Cliff. Love in Y2K is just not what it is cracked up to be

Someone is playing a cruel trick on the nation's lovers. St Valentine's Day is just behind us; the roses stand unwithered on their stems. Yet like a swarm of aphids, along comes a quartet of films about besieged, or abusive, or fatal relationships. And like an over-eager suitor, each has serious pretensions - but none quite lives up to its promise.

One More Kiss is a low-budget British film set mostly in the Scottish Borders. But it starts with a New York skyscraper, from the top of which a 30-year-old lass called Sarah is about to jump to her death. She stops herself because she remembers being told that the wind will blow her about like an autumn leaf, or else she will drop like a stone and endanger the lives of innocent pedestrians.

Surprise, surprise, this turns out to be a metaphor for the rest of the film. For Sarah has terminal brain cancer, and when she goes home to spend her last months with her childhood sweetheart Sam - only to find him happily married - she has to choose between dealing with her eddying emotions on her own or piling them onto other people's shoulders.

Or so it seems; but the film never does force her to choose. Sarah is an aggressively no-nonsense sort of girl, not someone, you might think, to throw herself to her death. And while she shows scant concern for Sam's distraught wife Charlotte, she makes it her life's last work to reconcile her father, Frank, with his long-lost lover.

Now, all this could quite properly be explained as the confusion of selfishness and sympathy, of determination and denial, that might well follow such a shock. Sometimes the film suggests as much. "I'm Sarah. I've got cancer. Bummer," she blithely declares to a sufferers' self-help group; later we see her racked with grief when the youngest member of that group commits suicide.

But more often, Suzie Halewood's script sacrifices such insights on the altar of the Upbeat Message. That means going to implausible lengths to advertise Sarah's spirit, and treating us to an - I am sorry to say it - interminable series of moral bromides. "We get one chance, Frank," says Sarah. "One. And we have to take it, because if we don't it might not always be there waiting for us". Or: "People who assume they're immortal will always be waiting for the starting pistol. There isn't one." It's all thoroughly sincere, and moving in its suggestion that we only value life when it's too late. And to be fair, it is sometimes ironic about its characters' attempts at self-analysis.

The director, Vadim Jean, aims for visual realism with some success - he uses only the available lighting to good, stark effect - though he is occasionally heavy-handed.

But the more important realism of plausible character development goes astray. It is not the fault of the actors. Valerie Edmond is promising as Sarah; Valerie Gogan is sympathetic as Charlotte; Gerard Butler makes some headway with Sam's intriguing - if familiar -- predicament: by encouraging Sarah, is he being selfless, or is he secretly flattered? And the film benefits greatly from the presence of James Cosmo as Frank.

Copyright 2000 Times Newspapers Limited


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