Stars: Renee Bryant, Troy Reeves, Sarah Lovell and Michael Coleman
I much prefer Mills's script to Chopin's short story, though perhaps it's simply because I'm a man. Chopin was an influential feminist and The Kiss revolves around a young lady who gets precisely what she wants, even though the kiss of the title temporarily scuppers her chances at the prize. She wants to get married, to the rich young man who is awkwardly courting her, for a particularly mercenary reason. As she puts it, 'The rather insignificant and unattractive Brantain was enormously rich; and she liked and required the entourage which wealth could give her.' She's about to land this big fish when another man waltzes into her house and plants an 'ardent, lingering kiss upon her lips' which would have done for her chances if she wasn't such a 'outspoken' young lady. In other words, Nathalie is modern enough to marry for money, modern enough to make it happen, even after a cog has been thrown into her machinations, and modern enough after it's done to try to keep the millionaire and the hurler of the cog both.
If any of this is there in Mills's adaptation, it's because we've brought it with us from our homework. None of it would appear to be there otherwise, because he doesn't give us any background detail to tell us why the young bride at the heart of his story got married. Maybe she's a gold-digger like Nathalie, but nothing tells us that. We can certainly see that her husband isn't a passionate man and there's nothing to suggest that she loves him, but there are a hundred reasons to get married and she could easily just be distracted by the chaos of a big wedding. We can believe from Renee Bryant's face that her character isn't sure of her decision, but she doesn't drive the story as Mills presents it. In fact, nobody drives anything except the complete stranger played by Michael Coleman who isn't given a name, a reason or any dialogue. He walks past their table on a restaurant patio, stops to kiss her completely out of the blue and then waltzes off down the road. He exists in this film only to deliver the kiss of the title and set up our story.
Michael Hanelin will surely be happy that he's not the only actor tasked with playing ambiguous roles at Running Wild, but I wonder which way Renee Bryant read her character. Everything revolves around that kiss, which she doesn't fight. The last shot of the film shows her face wide open, resonating a whole host of emotions all at once, and it's the one moment in the film that she's alive. It would be easy to denigrate her lack of engagement, if only it wasn't the right choice for the picture. Staying distracted throughout, but ending up with wide eyes, is far more appropriate. The acting generally is certainly more consistent than it was in The Sisters, but these are far from the sort of outstanding performances we know Mills can conjure out of his actors. Mostly I think they did what they needed to; it's just that their characters play second fiddle to the story. There are feminist takes to this, but then the deliberate lack of background makes many readings possible. I firmly feel that the woman isn't in charge here though; the writer is.