Clutching a newly won Italian Golden Globe comes an insightful teen drama that adroitly tackles a whole slew of issues such as homophobia, bullying and date-rape sex. Despite the serious nature of it’s subject matter, the movie opens on a very sunny note infusing such warmth and humor throughout that doesn’t prepare one at all for the latter part with it’s very dark twist to the plot.
Lorenzo (Rimau Ritzberger Grillo) a flamboyant teenager has just been adopted from a home in Turin and has now been brought back to this small town by his new parents. Faced with the task of starting in a new school where he knows he will be taunted for his outfits and attitude, he attempts to diffuse the situation by disarming his classmates by just being more outrageous and daring them to take him on. In the first of a few very camp scenes we see him burst into song and dance the moment he hits the school gates, playing out what he imagines would be his triumphant entry in a perfect world.
They all hate him in sight, however he soon befriends Blu (Valentina Romani) who finished last term by allowing her boyfriend and three of his mates to have a mini orgy with her. Word seeped out and she is now not only ostracized by her classmates but her exploits are the subject of some nasty graffiti that is plastered all over the school walls.
The two of them persuade Antonio (Leonardo Pazzagli) a rather sullen basketball jock to be their friend, primarily because Lorenzo fancies him, but also because he is so quiet and is branded by others as ‘dumb’ band is an outsider just like they are. He is still suffering from the recent death of an older brother in a fatal car accident, and has to deal with his grieving mother who is now smothering him in fear of him meeting a similar fate.
These three teenager’s close bond doesn’t stop any of the name calling or finger pointing, but it gives them the strength and resolution to seek revenge on the main ringleaders. For once the three of them are visibly happy which comes as a relief and joy to their respective parents, but as they still have unresolved internal issues, we sense that the newly found self-confidence and bravery will be shattered again. When it does, it is with such unexpected and dire consequences, it literally stuns one into silence.
Throughout the whole piece Lorenzo professes his self assurance to Blu that he will not allow the bigotry and homophobia from the school community ever get to him that he would take his own life as countless gay teenagers have done in the pictures he shows her on his computer. She is also going to have to draw upon on her own reserve of strength, and that of her mother’s, when her boyfriend reveals the shocking facts of exactly what did go on at that pool party last summer.
This is the sophomore movie of director/writer Ivan Cotroneo …. his first being the highly enjoyable Loose Cannons ….. and he also wrote the screenplay for the Oscar nominated I Am Love. He tackles each of the issues with sensitivity and reality, particularly in some of the more disturbing scenes such as the School Principal’s interview with Lorenzo’s father when she fails to condemn the regime of blatant homophobia that is inspired by her own staff. Cotroneo is to be congratulated for avoiding any excess in getting his points across, or reverting to cliched stereotypes to tell his story.
Kudos to him for his casting choices his extremely talented young leads give sterling performances especially Ritzberger Grillo making his screen debut here.
As long as bullying and homophobia is allowed and encouraged to exist in our schools and in our society at large , there will always be a need to tell stories like this. Here’s hoping however that One Kiss will just turn a few more minds that behavior like this should never ever be tolerated, because of the dire consequences it has for people struggling to be themselves.