RETURN OF GREAT LIVERPOOL DRAMA
, 25 Jan 2013
For anyone wondering where all the good Liverpool based writers of the 80s and early 90s have gone, heres a reminder of the those works of yore. When Willy Russell, Alan Bleasdale and Jimmy McGovern based their tales in Liverpool, they created a collection great dramas. So its heartening to see a genuine return with Kicks. It benefits from featuring very real identifiable Liverpudlians in an unusual tale set against a backdrop of recognisable city landmarks. Kicks is really evocative of the citys people and places, the attitudes and the past-times. Nicole (KERRIE HAYES) is a teenage Liverpool Football Club fan. She has an unrealistic but harmless obsession with current striker and golden boy Lee (JAMIE DOYLE SHOOT ON SIGHT). Waiting below his apartment block window and peeking through cracks in the wall at the practice grounds, her one-sided love affair it seems likely that it will go unrewarded. At a city game, whilst waiting for the players to leave the ground, she befriends Jasmine (NICHOLA BURLEY STREETDANCE), who desires to become attached to Lee, or any footballer in fact, romantically. Jasmine takes Nicole around some of the city clubs where footballers are likely to show up in the VIP rooms. In turn, Nicole invites her into her secret and solitary world. A former hideout of a long deployed Military brother becomes their HQ where they hatch fantasies about their favourite footballer. On hearing the news that Lee is to transfer to Spain at the end of the season they endeavour to get him to change his mind, but how? Kicks wins because of a pair of winning performances from Hayes and Burley. Hayes is new to me and she is thoroughly convincing as the sensitive yet tough Nicole. Burleys Jasmine is more fun but shows steel beneath her goofy exterior. Their hideout is a holiday caravan inexplicably perched at the edge of a dock on the Mersey. The empty river always in shot. It serves as an escape from the drudgery of daily life. Responsible adults are in short supply, with Nicoles mother represented by post-it notes or a discarded Nurses uniform. The considerably richer Jasmines nouveau-riche family are in crises too with a sex tramp of a father and brassy mother. Their encounter with Lee comes late in the game. Hes sketched into the story deftly through snatched glimpses through a hole in the wall or a radio announcement. When its announced that he will be transferring to a Spanish football team next season the girls are genuinely upset, so when they do finally get to meet him they dont quite know what to do with him. This is where the plot gets interesting. Although, Lees character is predictably drawn and he turns out to be all weve been led to expect from premier league footballers in the tabloids, its the plot that surprises. The girls keep us on our toes and situation which sees Lee return to the girls HQ could go anywhere. The slim running time doesnt let the grass grow under their feet and the outcome is satisfying. Their may be some grumbles from those that expect operatics but in the end at least two of the protagonists will walk away from the events wiser and perhaps a lot smarter. Being played by older actresses, you have to remind yourself that Hayes and Burley are playing 15 year olds. Thats the only criticism I can angle at the film but its a light one. But this does not detract from the fact that Kicks is one of the best films to come out of Liverpool since Terence Davies introspective documentary about the city Of Time And The City in 2005. 6. 5 out of 10 Kicks is very small-scale but at the same time realistic and captivating. Two excellent performances from the two leads and a great sense of time and place make it a worthwhile watch. At face value it sells a predictable plot but the outcome is unexpected so without turning genre cliches on their heads, the film proves to a be an important coming-of-age tale for modern teenagers. Its a good crack at a football fan movie too that shies away from the usual tropes of hooliganism and violence. Recommended (if you can find the DVD!)
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