BURNING KISS is set six years after a fatal car crash that took the life of Juliette Bloom (Nichola Renton-Weir) and left her Detective husband Edmond (Richard Mellick) in a wheelchair. Edmond is now an ex-cop living with his daughter Charlotte (Alyson Walker) in an ambiguous relationship that might just have a few unhealthy elements to it (a bit of self-harm and a few control and daddy issues to contend with). Hanging over their heads is a dangerous cocktail of grief, guilt and an inability to let go of the past. Edmond needs to know who was responsible for Juliette’s death (the driver of the other car drove away and was never found).
In the opening scene, a young man, Max Woods (Liam Graham) walks out of the desert and into the Bloom home to confess that he was the one behind the wheel. But Edmond doesn’t turn him in. Instead, he enlists Charlotte’s help to set in motion a series of actions that will partially recreate the events of the night of the crash in order to allow the case to be properly investigated and solved by Edmund’s former colleague Sophia Valmont (Christie Sistrunk).
This story is complex enough, but Studsor pushes it even further by interspersing the film with gaudy, colourful, hallucinogenic flashes of wild imagery drawn from the psychological states of the characters, in particular of Max and Charlotte who inevitably become entangled creating somewhat of a triangular tension with Edmond.
Graham is believable as the troubled Woods who goes along with this strange plan and Walker makes a good fist of a difficult role that requires her to walk a tightrope between dominance and vulnerability along with some deeply buried guilt that must eventually come out. Mellick works hard to overcome the limitations of playing a character stuck in a wheelchair; it’s a challenge that he sometimes gets the better of, but that sometimes gets the better of him.
This is a pretty good-looking film nicely shot by Cinematographer Ivan Davidov and underscored by a cool, quirky and effective soundtrack composed by Christopher de Groot. What’s most impressive, though, is that a film made on such a miniscule budget (much of raised through crowdsourcing) has maintained the integrity of Studsor’s vision for a wild, non-naturalistic parallel layer of visuals that underpin the narrative. At times they reminded me of both the 1977 and 2018 versions of Suspiria in their bold and audacious renderings of the interior worlds of these characters. This imagery may have, at times, been incomprehensible, but the confidence with which they are rendered encourages the audience to go with the things they might find indecipherable rather than penalise the film for them. It might not be a film that’s to everyone’s taste but, for me, it’s a film worth our consideration.