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  • 15
  • Drama
  • 2009

Kicks

Kicks

Synopsis

Two young Liverpudlian women take their adoration of a professional footballer way too far in Lindy Heymann's Kicks, made under the aegis of Northwest Vision and Media's Digital Departures scheme

About

It is inevitable that in any film about fanaticism, the moment will come when things are taken too far. This is the critical point at which genuinely nuanced psychological studies of celebrity obsession like Martin Scorsese's The King Of Comedy (1982) and Robert D. Siegel's Big Fan (2009) are able to set themselves apart from films like Clint Eastwood's Play Misty For Me (1971), Rob Reiner's Misery (1990) and Tony Scott's The Fan (1996) in which subtlety is ultimately sacrificed to 'bunny boiler' genre thrills. Made under the working title Starstruck, Lindsay Heymann's Kicks similarly explores monomaniacal zealotry, but by focusing on a pair of 'number one fans' rather than on the object (and victim) of their unhinged infatuation, and by making them misguided adolescents rather than permanently lost adults, it manages to cross all sorts of lines while always staying on just the right side of deranged excess.

With a father who has moved on to a new wife and children, a mother whose shiftwork means she is never home, and an older brother off on a tour of duty in the Gulf, shy, sensitive 15-year-old Nicole (Kerrie Hayes) has been left to grow up all alone. The void is filled by her adoration for Lee Cassidy (Jamie Doyle), a star Premiership midfielder on whom the teenager projects all her dreams and desires. Hoping to catch a glimpse of the player outside the gates of Anfield, she runs into Jasmine (Nichola Burley), a similarly neglected if somewhat more worldly young woman who regards Cassidy as her dream ticket to the life of a pampered WAG.

Both girls quickly form a friendship that transcends their differences in social background and self-confidence - but when Cassidy's transfer to Real Madrid is announced, their shared sense of bewilderment and betrayal leads them to concoct a desperate plan to persuade their idol to stay. Stepping their methodology up a gear from distant stalking to close-up seduction, Nicole and Jasmine bring Cassidy back to the abandoned dockside trailer that they have made their home away from home, and over the course of one long night, learn hard lessons in the difference between childish fantasy and adult reality.

Shot lyrically by Eduard Grau (DP on A Single Man) and boasting a performance from Hayes that captures all the fey disorientation of youth, Kicks is as much a dreamy coming-of-age tale as a manic thriller or a study of celebrity's mirage and fanaticism's emptiness  and it remains intensely character-driven throughout, with the girls' naivete, vulnerability and deep yearning at its centre.

One of three screenplays, along with Terence Davies' Of Time And The City (2008) and Lawrence Gough's Salvage (2008), that was awarded a £250,000 microbudget by the Northwest Vision and Media's Digital Departures scheme, Heymann's film is also a bittersweet love letter to Liverpool itself, offering a panorama of 2008's European Capital of Culture that brings into revealing collision the city's most celebrated heroes and marginalised zeroes.

Cast & Connections

  • Producer: Andy Stebbing

In a nutshell

All at once a sensitive coming-of-age drama, a mildly implausible abduction thriller and a bittersweet love letter to Liverpool, Heymann's film plays like This Is England for the celebrity-obsessed Noughties.

by Anton Bitel

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