Review: A Thousand Kisses Deep (15) / Director: Dana Lustig / Screenplay: Alex Kustanovich, Vladim Moldovan / Starring: Dougray Scott, Jodie Whittaker, David Warner, Amelia Fox / Release Date: June 15th
Mia (Jodie Whittaker, Attack the Block) witnesses one of the neighbours from her apartment building commit suicide by jumping from a high window in a shower of photos and memories. Realising that she didn’t know the elderly woman at all, Mia makes the decision to take a look around the neighbour’s apartment where she unexpectedly discovers many of her own possessions and photographs - including one of her ex-boyfriend, jazz-playing Ludwig (Dougray Scott). Deeply unsettled by this, she speaks to the building’s caretaker, Max (David Warner) who explains that the lift in the building is, in fact, a time machine. It seems that the death Mia saw was her own. Using the time-traveling lift, she sets upon the task of investigating her own life, with the intention of fixing whatever it is that has gone wrong.
The premise is based around basic psychoanalysis, which is an interesting concept to apply to a time-travel film and creates a good dramatic arc. Mia goes on a voyage back through her life to discover how she could potentially end up as the suicidal old woman. Of course, to fit into the nice neat film plot, this device proves to be far simpler than it would be for anyone in the real world. She discovers that the problem is basically the destructive relationship she has with Ludwig, and sets about trying to find the roots of this one core problem. It does feel that the idea could have been used to create a much more complex tale which looked much deeper into the psyche of Mia, although that would have ended with a much heavier film than A Thousand Kisses Deep.
Most of the film is then taken up by traveling back to different points in her life and discovering how this relationship has damaged her. ‘Current’ Mia still finds it impossible to stand-up to Ludwig, or to resist his charms. This relationship goes from exciting to terrifying and creates some real tension throughout the film.
The performances are great. Jodie Whittaker’s nice-but-vulnerable Mia is the type of character that she excels at, but does feel a little two-dimensional in such an analytical film. The real stand-out is Dougray Scott as Ludwig, and he’ll be getting a great deal of praise for the role. Ludwig is clearly selfish and harmful, but with so much charisma and depth that it is easy to see why Mia would find him so easy to fall for.
The use of music - specifically jazz - works well. It has such a timeless, romantic quality that it underpins what is happening on screen and with the characters. It also helps to fit the film together as we are jumping back and forth through time.
There are a couple of clunkier parts to the story, such as the initial info-dump explaining the time-travel device, but overall director Dana Lustig has a well crafted and at times very unsettling time-travel thriller. A great concept gives some unusual depth to the tired time-travel plot device, but would have benefitted from having more time to explore the character of Mia.