Somewhere in Greece we see a young woman reading the classic work by Shakespeare, and then she drinks a liquid out of a vial she carries. It’s poison. A somewhat swarthy looking gentleman then apparently rescues her. From there she appears to have recovered and is in a coffee shop while she’s be overtly watched by another patron. After a series of near encounters, the other patron (a girl named Farryn) finally corners this mysterious person. She’s curious about her, but this mystery woman doesn’t wish to give her name. Not long after that Farryn is cornered by someone she thinks is a mugger, only he doesn’t want her money. Instead he wants her blood, but before he can do any damage the mysterious woman shows up and stakes a claim on Farryn, who then learns the secret of the object of her affections. Farryn has been pursuing a vampire, but not just any vampire. She’s become smitten with Juliet Capulet, who gave her story to Shakespeare some years after the love of her life, Romeo, died in her arms. Juliet has a lot of emotional barriers up, but Farryn is determined to crack through that wall of Juliet’s. However Farryn has a secret of her own. Add to the fact that Juliet’s family isn’t thrilled with the presence of Farryn, feeling that she is taking Juliet away from them.
Independent films can take their inspiration from a myriad of sources, but to turn to Romeo and Juliet, turn it into a vampire horror, and then turn it into same-sex love story between two women is incredibly bold and fresh. Having Juliet live all these years would add layers to her character thereby altering the dynamics within the burgeoning relationship between her and Farryn. That alone keeps this from becoming a blatant copy of the tragic love story. Farryn is attracted to the idea of not dying, but Juliet explains that being dead has its own drawbacks making it impossible to “enjoy the moment” and all of the little things that living people take for granted. It’s that ability to live that draws Juliet towards Farryn, who is determined to make every moment of her life count, especially if it is spent with Juliet. For the time that they are together they do more than complete each other. They’re not just two sides of the same coin, instead they are two halves of a much greater whole. This type of relationship could have become tedious were it not for the two main actors in this film, Ella Kweku as Juliet and Paige Emerson as Farryn. These two young ladies brought both age-old wisdom, as well as a youthful naiveté, and at all times they were completely believable. They also demonstrated some amazing chemistry, each one bringing about an action throughout the movie that would cause for the perfect reaction. Emerson was brilliant as Farryn, especially as she tries to demonstrate to Juliet all of the beauty that she sees in the world. All of her thoughts and motivations speak of someone who is desperate to continue seeing that same beauty, but Emerson never oversteps in her acting. Even when she feels she is losing Juliet, Emerson’s response comes off as heartbreakingly sad and was able to serve as a reminder to anyone watching what it was like to have one’s heart broken.
Juliet’s Ella Kweku is a revelation. Just as she is reluctant to open herself up to Farryn throughout the film, the viewer needs to peel back the layers on her character as well, and in doing so we meet someone who has an unhealthy mix of wisdom and bitterness. Kweku gives us a character that has all of the signs of being extremely wise with the world, but at any given moment turn that wisdom into anger at what she is as well as what she has lost. To create and give a character that has these traits because of what she has become is beyond challenging, but Kweku delivers a perfect performance in that area. Not only was she completely convincing in who she is supposed to be, with all of the grace and baggage that comes with it, it also becomes easy to see why someone like Farryn would be drawn to her. Kweku made Juliet a living character.
If there is any downside it is a very minor one in that at times the story felt a bit muddy as the details were coming forth. There would be sudden shifts in perspective and locale that caused for some minor confusion from time to time. Considering the amount of knowledge and backstory that gets revealed through the course of time is tricky enough to follow, but takes extra effort with the somewhat uneven telling of the story. However, as I had stated, this was only a minor flaw.
Lastly, this movie is beautiful to watch. Set on the Greek Islands, director Ronnie Khalil managed to capture the pure beauty that makes up Greece, and was able to do so repeatedly at a moment’s notice given some of the unpredictable elements that would come into play when working on this film. This could almost serve as an advertisement for the Greek Travel Bureau. The scenery is absolutely sparkling, which pops off the screen as the method used to actually film With a Kiss I Die gives everything an almost hyper-reality to it. Typically with a vampire film it would largely be shot with dim lighting and muted detail, but the clarity of this film with all of its scenes almost makes it look like it was filmed in 4K. In any case, if Khalil decided to hang up his hat in making movies he would without question have a bright future in making travel films to excite potential tourists. With the incredible acting, the stunning cinematography, and the interesting take on the Shakespeare classic, writer/director Ronnie Khalil has delivered a truly beautiful film in With A Kiss I Die.
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With A Kiss I Die received 4.5 out of 5 bites!!!
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