Published Dec 01, 2005Neil Jordan's best movie since The Crying Game is being greeted with widespread incomprehension by critics. I can't imagine why it's one of the most genuinely pleasurable movies of the year, one that gives and gives until it's got nothing left.
Cillian Murphy nails the central role of Patrick "Kitten" Braden, a flamboyant transvestite, abandoned love child of a priest (Liam Neeson) and a parishioner. He/she comes of age in Northern Ireland during the height of IRA violence, and his picaresque journey takes him first on the road with a terrorist glam rocker (Gavin Friday), then to London where he falls under the spell of a condescending magician (Stephen Rea) and is mistaken for a bomber by the police.
Kitten takes all sorts of punishment for his difference and his refusal to knuckle under, and our admiration for him, is intense, and he's backed up by a gloriously colorific mise-en-scene that conforms absolutely to his worldview. Jordan sadly indulges his yen for a naive-to-ludicrous evasion of politics, painting the IRA as clueless blue meanies and English authorities as bumbling nice guys, but though his desire to wish away life's complexities mirrors that of his protagonist, he at least manages to evoke the frustration we all feel when outside forces conspire to interrupt our lives.
Kitten's search for his mother and desire to make a home for himself is extremely moving, and the agonising trials he endures will only fill you with admiration even as he walks again and again into the belly of the abusive beast. It's a strangely uplifting film, and in spite of its heretical leanings seems the perfect one to watch at this festive time of year. (Mongrel Media)