A Thousand Kisses Deep (2011)

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In Back to the Future, Doc Brown built a time machine out of a DeLorean. In A Thousand Kisses Deep, they’ve made a time-travel story out of a Leonard Cohen song. Not bad! One description of the movie goes: “An unsettling drama that cinematically captures and recreates the psycho-analytic experience.” Um, well, maybe so, but from the p.o.v. of this sci-fi fan, the movie is much better described as a serious and low-key drama version of Groundhog Day.

We follow a young woman, Mia (Jodie Whittaker from the excellent Attack the Block), who one day witnesses the suicide of an elderly woman in her building. She never met this woman until this day, and is therefore surprised to learn that the old woman had lived in the building as long as Mia herself, in an apartment virtually identical to Mia’s. The old woman had a photograph of Mia’s previous boyfriend, the much older, cheating, power-tripping and self-obsessed Ludwig (Dougray Scott), who has largely ruined Mia’s existence by going in and out of her life, repeatedly leaving her in an emotional lurch.

So Mia bribes the building’s janitor (David Warner) to gain access to the old lady’s apartment, where she finds a lot of mementos from her own life. Apparently, the old woman is Mia’s future self. The janitor is a sort of centuries old temporal custodian, and with the help of his time-travelling elevator (not a bad idea!), Mia gets the chance to go back in time and try to undo her fateful relationship with Ludwig. The origins of this relationship goes back a long, long time, to when she heard him play the trumpet at her tenth birthday – and further back still. And isn’t it strange that Mia has dark hair, like Ludwig, when both her parents are blond…?

You may be able to guess the rest, as I did. The actors’ performances are quite good, and I love the idea of turning a Leonard Cohen song into a time-travel drama (which seems to be inspired by several more songs from Cohen’s 2001 album, Ten New Songs, esp. “In My Secret Life”), but there are a bunch of elements in this movie that seem contrived and unpolished. For one thing, when Mia is in the past, she can interact with herself without being recognized (even when she meets herself as just slightly younger), which is a bit too convenient. Also very conveniently, the adult Mia is also invited to her own tenth birthday, and generally happens to be on the spot for no convincing reason whenever something of importance to the plot happens. The shocking twist at the end falls a bit flat, because it has been seen more than once before in this type of story.

To be fair, though, I suppose the movie does make best sense from a non-literal point of view, where it is all symbolic of some unspecified (well, all right, not that unspecified) trauma of Mia’s, which she is gradually dealing with through regression therapy, the janitor of course being the therapist. It is a difficult journey; she has to go ever further back in time, because whenever she does something in one time period, it tends to just help cause the problem – or at least not be enough to deflect its impact on her life. In this sense many of the plot contrivances may actually be forgiven; in fact, they make good sense. Personally, I tend to look at such a movie through the critical eyes of a science fiction aficionado, but I have to grant that this movie does seem a lot more meaningful as a therapeutic adventure, and is a better experience from this point of view than if you see it as a genre movie.

This review is based on a DVD-R screener which does not include the Behind the Scenes feature that is on the retail version. A Thousand Kisses Deep is released on DVD February 4.

Director: Dana Lustig
Cast: Dougray Scott, Jodie Whittaker, Emilia Fox, David Warner and others.
Runtime: 81 min.
Country: UK

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

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