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Category: One More Kiss Reviews
Article Date: November 22, 1999 | Publication: Variety | Author: DEREK ELLEY

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A Metrodome Films release (in U.K.) of a Mob Films production, in association with JAM Pictures and Freewheel Intl. (International sales: Mob Films, London.) Produced by Vadim Jean, Paul Brooks. Executive producers, Sara Giles, Derek Roy. Co-producers, Jane Walmsley, Michael Braham.

Directed by Vadim Jean. Screenplay, Suzie Halewood. Camera (Technicolor prints, Panavision widescreen), Mike Fox; editor, Joe McNally; music, John Murphy, David A. Hughes; production designer, Simon Hicks; art director, Louise Bedford; costume designer, Linda Brooker; sound (Dolby Digital), Michael Lax, Tommy Hair, Tim Alban; casting, Carl Proctor. Reviewed at London Film Festival, Nov. 8, 1999. Running time: 100 MIN.

Sam ..... Gerry Butler

Frank ..... James Cosmo

Sarah ..... Valerie Edmond

Charlotte ..... Valerie Gogan

Jude ..... Danny Nussbaum

Barry ..... Carl Proctor

A film about dying framed as an ode to life, "One Last Kiss" is an ambitious, strikingly shot and played love story that comes very close to hitting its target. Aside from its soppy title, the only major flaw in the pic, which introduces impressive Scottish newcomer Valerie Edmond as a woman who returns to roots for her final days, is an absence of calibrated tone in helmer Vadim Jean's otherwise careful direction. Some fine tuning, plus clever marketing to overcome the superficially downbeat content, could make this a strong niche item.

Jean's career has mirrored almost every aspect of the so-called British Renaissance over the past decade, first co-directing the trailblazing comedy "Leon the Pig Farmer" back in the dark days of 1992, then aiming for multiplex fare with horror pic "Beyond Bedlam" before making the tonier but noncommercial "Clockwork Mice." Following last year's Canadian-shot "The Real Howard Spitz," with Kelsey Grammer, he's now returned to home turf with the present feature, his fifth and markedly most mature movie to date.

Striking opening, with Sarah (Edmond) ruminating on suicide atop a vertiginous Gotham building, sets the immensely visual, widescreen look of the movie, with a helicopter shot sweeping across the city and boldly segueing from the waters of the Hudson to those of the more placid Borders region, just south of Scotland, in northeast England. It's here that Sarah, 30, diagnosed with brain-stem carcinomas, returns to spend time with her widowed father, Frank (James Cosmo), and former b.f., Sam (Gerry Butler), now running a French eatery with his wife, Charlotte (Valerie Gogan).

Charlotte is understandably a bit put out by Sarah's sudden reappearance, and even more so by the fact that she wants to spend time with Sam, whom she originally dumped to take off Stateside for unexplained career reasons. Frank is also unsettled to see the headstrong Sarah, especially when she tries to jerk him out of his morose, housebound existence.

It's clear from the start that helmer Jean defiantly does not want to make a small, miserabilist British pic in which the protagonist's slow exit sends auds in the same direction; his models come more from mainstream than film school cinema, though with a grit that reflects the story's northern setting and characters.

Sarah is a confident Borders lass who accepts the hand that fate has dealt her but is determined not to let it color her remaining span on Earth. With humorous briskness, she lectures Frank and Sam on the coffin, church service and post-funeral chow she wants, and promptly starts in on her list of things to experience, starting with skydiving with Sam.

The movie deliberately has no sense of chronology, of Sarah slowly succumbing to her cancer, as it swings between moments of quiet intimacy with Frank and Sam to lushly scored set pieces as Sarah lives life to the full. Sarah also encourages her father to make contact again with an American singer he loved in his youth and Sam is torn between his reawakened affection for Sarah and his love for the increasingly intolerant Charlotte.

First-timer Suzie Halewood's screenplay works in small, contrasted blocks --- serious and lightly comedic --- and the essentially very small story is prevented from disappearing down its own kitchen sink by the eye-catching Panavision compositions and Jean's risk-taking, bigscreen bravado. That's OK for an hour or so, but thereon, as relationships develop, the pic needs a more settled emotional arc toward the finale.

Unnecessary sequences such as Sam and Charlotte spatting in their restaurant, and Sam taking time out to make a special dish for Sarah, break the natural progression of the movie, and could easily be eliminated. Despite that, the simple, dignified ending does manage to pack considerable emotional punch.

Strong and confident, Edmonds (though only third billed) is terrific as the bottom-line Sarah, giving no ground to the experienced Cosmo as her gruff, stubborn father. Butler, largely from legit and TV, is also fine as the charming but confused Sam. Only Gogan suffers from an underwritten part that makes Charlotte into a reactive grouch rather than a fully drawn character.

Docu lenser Mike Fox, largely using available light rather than artificial wattage, creates one after another beautifully textured compositions for the thesps to move around in, catching the bleak beauty of the northeast English coastline (around Berwick-upon-Tweed) and occasionally switching to a more restless handheld style for edgier moments. Music by the team of John Murphy and David A. Hughes smoothly mixes popular and classical numbers with symphonic scoring to match the visuals.

Copyright 1999 Reed Elsevier Inc.


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