Kelly + Victor is the feature debut of Welsh director Kieran Evans. On his search for a story that spoke to him he discovered the 2002 novel by Niall Griffiths, a gritty and harrowing romance about young love gone bad.
Victor is something of a watered down hipster, and Kelly is a petite lost soul with a broken heart. They meet on Victor’s birthday when he’s out celebrating, and lust strikes without hesitation. After a hasty night filled with sadomasochism, neither can get the other out of their minds, much less the marks left off of their bodies. After this fiery start they try something bordering on conventional, a date to a museum, where they ponder what love means to a Godless couple, and whether what they have can be beautiful.
In their own ways the two characters become afraid of what the other means to them, and they take a hiatus to lick their wounds, emotional and otherwise. Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Julian Morris give admirably raw performances with only a paper thin script to draw on. Tellingly, Evans removed a lot of the book’s rich narration from his adaptation, leaving Kelly and Victor as unfinished skeletons of characters crying out for flesh and blood. Promising subplots go nowhere and the director only demonstrates any inventiveness in the shooting of the sex scenes, which aren’t much more than eye candy for marketing.
Budget constraints meant a reduced crew and humble resources, and Evans and his cinematographer Piers McGrail admittedly do a splendid job of creating a haunting and unusual portrait of Liverpool, and it’s broken youth underbelly. But some obvious visual metaphors bring down the level of sophistication, and the overall style is disappointingly derivative of many other better gritty British films. The typically indie soundtrack plays it safe and the incongruity of it’s cutesy feel compared to the films darker side has been done before and much better in films like 2010’s Blue Valentine.
Whilst the photography is sharp and modern, the performances brave and immediate, Kelly + Victor commits the one true sin of filmmaking – being boring. The story is so slight and the dangers it warns of so obvious, you’re left thinking did we really need another down-and-dirty Brit flick to state the obvious?