I noticed this film by chance in my local video rental shop. Directed by Lindy Heymann (who received a British Independent Film Award in 2002 for co-directing Showboy), "Kicks" premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2009 but was overshadowed by the praise heaped on Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank. It tells of two Liverpudlian girls in their mid-to-late teens who follow everything to do with Liverpool star player Lee Cassidy (Jamie Doyle). Fanatically. Peeking through a high wall to see him training, they progress to waiting for him for hours after matches, hanging around outside his luxury apartment, and breaking into the underground complex where his silver Mercedes is parked.
The two female leads are fantastic: Nichola Burley (who will feature in this year's Wuthering Heights) plays the black-haired WAG wannabe Jasmine and Kerrie Hayes the poorer, fair-haired Nicole who is convinced that she is in love with Lee and longs for the famous footballer to rescue her from the depressing limitations and boredom of her life. Where will the two girls' infatuation lead when their heartthrob announces a sudden transfer to Real Madrid? Given the social realist tone of the film, we know that the consequences of their unbridled projections are likely to be bleak.
The film's title takes on an extra nuance in some of the final, painful moments. Blending burgeoning sexuality, female friendship and social commentary on celebrity culture and the aspirations of many modern-day British teenagers, it asks us: When does a teenage crush become something more irrational? Where does idolisation end and stalking begin? What could be the consequences of confusing our fantasies with reality? And what are the dangers of the position occupied by celebrities in modern culture and society?
In doing so - and this is one of the key positives of Leigh Campbell's screenplay - idolisation is not depicted as static but as a process: Nicole, in particular, goes through a gamut of emotions in the course of her celebrity obsession, shifting from dreamy hope, through disappointment, to a desire for revenge. But the script reveals deficiencies in the second half, especially with regard to the lines given to Lee. The pacing and plausibility falter in the long scene inside the caravan, spoiling the tension in this otherwise superb, energetic film. (4/4.5 stars)
Extras include an 18-minute featurette with the director and two female leads, along with the trailer.
RIFL: Me Without You, Morvern Callar, Fish Tank, My Summer of Love, This is England