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DIFF 2011 Review: A KISS AND A PROMISE

John Mulhern

by: John Mulhern
April 13th, 2011

Rating: 4/5

Writers: Mick Rossi and Phillip Guzman (screenplay)
Director: Phillip Guzman
Cast: Mick Rossi, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Sean Power

We all have parts of ourselves that we don't care to share with the rest of the world, especially those close to us. What would happen if they didn't understand, or if they found our darker side to be horrifying? The duality can oftentimes be too much to handle, and eventually the two worlds begin to blend together. This brings us to Phillip Guzman's A KISS AND A PROMISE, where we explore the duality of a very sick individual.

The film follows the story of David Beck (Mick Rossi) who owns and operates a bed and breakfast in Ontario with his wife. Their luck is about to change, as they recently bought a vacancy sign for their business. This is likely to bring them plenty of new customers. But of course, as things start to fall in place, it causes problems for the family. See, David has a very dark secret. He is a serial killer, who finds solace in raping women and choking them to death with a belt. After he kills a young girl who ran away from home, two detectives take on the case and begin the search for the killer.

The duality inside of David is a common factor in the story, not only is he hiding his murderous side, but he is also struggling to balance his relationship with his wife and his lover. His lover is an amateur writer named Charlie Matthews (Sean Power), who lives in the room next to David and his wife. It gets to a point where Charlie is so behind on his rent, and David's wife is jealous of the attention David gives him and she wants him out. This is where the real rift in his life begins.

The film is shot beautifully. Almost every shot in A KISS AND A PROMISE is either static or slow moving, an effect that never fails to build tension to what is coming. It's even Hitchcock-esque in a way that is sure to give the heebie jeebies to even the bravest people. It is also predominately shot with a pretty heavy depth of field to help control the focus. Most of the time, it is used meaningfully, although it sometimes feels a little overindulgent. Either way, it's very obvious that a keen artistic eye approached the visual style and it certainly adds a whole lot to the film; it feels immensely unique.

The actor who plays David, Mick Rossi, is also the screenwriter for the film, and he has done a really phenomenal job here. The story is very lo-fi, but never once did I have a sense of direction toward what was to come. Twists and turns happen as quick as a blink of the eye, and never gives us too much. Rossi really digs into the psyche of David and fleshed out his character in such a way that made it so that only he could have played the role. He crafts all of the relationships brilliantly, and uses the events and interactions between them to build to a boiling point. When that point happens, the film takes a direction that is both gratifying and saddening.

Rossi and Guzman also set up a whole slew of side-stories that are all just as interesting as the main plot. They all end up building toward the conclusion, and every one of them comes to a head at the end. There was really only one sub-plot that felt a little weaker than the rest, following the parents of the young girl David killed. On the other hand, this side story is immensely important to the film as a whole, it just doesn't grip like the rest of the film.

The performance by the entire main cast was also quite enthralling. It was easy to believe them in their roles and they seemingly understood the characters very well. All of the relationships feel very real due to the superb writing and the immense chemistry that the cast had with one another. All of the performances are believable and endearing with so much care and devotion put into their work. They bring the script to life in a way that filmmakers dream of.

Although the lo-fi nature of the film is certainly a major part of the charm, oftentimes I wanted it to amp up a little bit more than it did. As interesting as the film is, it isn't exactly exciting. The scenes of David interacting with his victims somewhat satiate that desire, but not fully. I would have loved the cinematography to ramp up a little bit more toward the end and get a little bit more exciting, but it wouldn't have matched the rest of the film and could have been out of place.

A KISS AND A PROMISE is a very enjoyable film that keeps you on the edge of your seat for its entirety. Mick Rossi is a vastly talented individual, and I certainly hope that he and Phillip Guzman team up again in the future. They make a really great team and I have no doubt they are on to great things in the future.

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