Kiss Me (Kyss mig)
Sweden (2011) Dir. Alexandra-Therese Keining
Newly engaged architects Mia (Ruth Vega Fernandez) and Tim (Joakim Nätterqvist) arrive at the engagement party of Mia’s father Lasse (Krister Henriksson) and Elisabeth (Lena Endre). Mia meets Elisabeth’s daughter Frida (Liv Mjönes) for the first time, who she believes may be sleeping with Mia’s younger brother Oskar (Tom Ljungman). However over the course of the stay the initial awkwardness between the two women begins to ebb away, leading to an unexpected kiss which gives way to much more, threatening the harmony of both sides of this complex family unit.
Inspired by the real life experiences of the film’s producer Josefin Tengblad (who also plays Frida’s partner Elin), Kiss me (aka With Every Heartbeat) was the big hit at the 2012 London Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. It may be heavy with Sapphic content but at its heart it is a simple story of a forbidden love that explores the effect on the surrounding parties and not just the personal tumult of the main characters. The expected graphic sex scenes are present and while they are raunchy enough to appease the shallow horn dogs watching, they are suffused with sensuality and natural passion.
The story is standard fare that sets out its deviant agenda early on by teasing a relationship between soon-to-be step siblings Oskar and Frida, before hinting at a subtle frisson between Tim and Frida. Mia goes away with Frida and Elisabeth to inspect the property Lasse and Elisabeth want built up with Lasse deliberately no showing in order to let the three ladies bond, a prospect Mia finds terrifying. But after a few drinks alone with Frida, Mia unsuspectingly kisses Frida, who confessed her true sexual proclivities to Mia earlier.
Both are shocked by this with Mia going into denial mode but resistance, as they say, is futile and things on get physical. Unsurprisingly Frida sees this as the beginning a beautiful relationship while Mia is racked with guilt and confusion as Tim is on hand to remind her of their forthcoming nuptials. In the middle of this, Mia and Lasse are reunited after a prolonged period, and a number of unresolved issue about the divorce are brought to light during the fall out.
It’s not just Tim who needs to worry about this burgeoning affair – Frida has to let her partner Elin go after falling so hard for Mia while Elisabeth, in whom Frida has confided about the situation, falls out with Lasse who is adamantly resistant to the idea his daughter might be a (sic) dyke. You knew someone had to go there, so leave it to stuffy old dad, although Elisabeth admitted to having a hard time accepting Frida when she first came out.
Aside from adding that bit of spice to the implications of this illicit affair and creating further conflict in the family, it seems that the parents are designed to fulfil the stuffy old bigotry vs the modern acceptance dichotomy. But with two reliable hands in the form of TV’s Wallander Krister Henriksson and fellow Wallander co-star and Millennium trilogy stalwart Lena Endre, this first descent into the predictable is far more tolerable and less vapid than it could have been.
Romantic dramas, regardless of the sexuality issues, will always struggle to avoid the familiar conventions and Kiss Me is no different. Tim happens to espy a very public kiss between his fiancée and her future step sister while out driving with Oskar, the two Sapphic love birds fight over unresolved and residual feelings for former partners, a mad dash to the airport – it’s all here. Thankfully this is left for the final act so we have a sensual, honest but slickly made drama for the most part driven by the strong performances of the cast and the beautifully shot and composed visuals.
The homosexuality isn’t portrayed as anything sordid or dirty yet we understand Mia’s concerns for keeping the relationship with Frida between them since so much was at stake other than homophobic disapproval, clearly illustrated by the open kissing on the street when they believed there were out of harm’s way.
Some may find the sex scenes a tad gratuitous (other clearly won’t) but in this case they serves a purpose in relating the progress of the relationship between the two ladies. After Mia awkwardly initiated the first kiss Frida is the keener of the two to take the next step, true to her sexual nature. This proves to be a pivotal scene, not just the first time the get physical but at the pint of climax, Mia sheds a tear. One can read so much into the meaning of this tear but it makes for a powerful and beautiful moment that encapsulates the mixture of emotional pleasure and torment Mia experiences.
This sets the scene for the rest of the affair which is made up of subtle looks and gentle physical touches that speak louder than any of the more explicit scenes do. Part of the film’s beauty, and this may sound odd, is that the two leads are quite “ordinary” looking – in that they are not unreasonably beautiful – this everything feels like everyday life and thus relatable for the viewer than not a cheap thrill fantasy.
Clichéd story elements aside Kiss Me shows that a sensitive issue as homosexuality involving women doesn’t have to be exploitative and tawdry, which some may accuse the sex scenes of living up to, but this rises above that with a tale of a genuine and truly heartfelt romance. The top notch acting and sumptuously shot images make this an easy tale to get fully involved in.