In Search of a Midnight Kiss review

This absolute treasure of a low budget black-and-white movie resonates Kevin Smith’s Clerks, but is much more warm-hearted. Working from a superb script, the fantastic cast bring to the screen a keenly observed interaction between complicated, desperate 20-somethings who haven’t quite made it in life yet.

Witness a day in the life of Wilson (McNairy), an awkward, self-conscious, out-of-work scriptwriter living in Los Angeles, as he sets about on his quest to find someone to kiss at the strike of midnight on New Year's Eve. His cocky but ever-forgiving flatmate and childhood friend Jacob (McGuire), having caught Wilson wanking over pictures of his own girlfriend, signs Wilson up to Craigslist in a bid to get him out of the flat, over his ex-girlfriend and into someone else’s bed.

Out of a sorry bunch of desperados who call up it’s Vivian (Simmonds) who meets him first. Vivian is crass, brash, seemingly over-confident and rude but beautiful and addictive in only a way a girl laden with misery can be. She gives Wilson until sundown to prove himself — although what exactly she’s after, we feel that not even she knows. Fresh out of a repressive long-term relationship herself, Vivian allows Wilson her company, and the two fall into a routine concurrent normally with couples who have known each other forever, let alone one night. From sharing their first kiss, this couple don’t just float on the giddy highs of new-found love, but plunge low into the depths of insecurity and disappointment. One poignant scene sees Wilson quietly but resolutely following Vivian through the streets and underground of the city after a row. His slow, confused, persistency wins him back his girl as she struggles with her demons about what she will or won’t allow a man to presume of her.

Jacob, meanwhile, is trying to find the right moment to propose to girlfriend Min, whose strength and unwavering quiet confidence feels bitter and cold when compared to the other’s failures and insecurities. In their late 20s, this generation now comes with scars and hidden baggage, making them far more fragile than their bolshy exteriors allow us to initially believe. They are all the more loveable as flawed, struggling human beings, and are touched with the poignancy of not just having not quite fulfilled their dreams, but of not yet entirely understanding what their dreams are.

Writer/director Holdridge manages to veer away from the cheesy Hollywood ending, all the while allowing the viewer to remain cautiously positive that they might end up managing to Forrest Gump their way through life somehow. Superbly written and beautifully acted, the low quality of the flickering reel only makes it all the more believable and authentic, somehow.

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Jo Wood

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