By Madyson McGill
On my very first night ever at the Heartland Film Festival, my very first movie was a little number called The Girl Who Invented Kissing, written and directed by Tom Sierchio. I went in thinking it would be a general independent film with some light hearted moments, some touching moments, but nothing too over-the-top dramatic. While it is all of that, I honestly thought it would lean more towards the comedy with a name like The Girl Who Invented Kissing. You know how you’re told not to judge a book by its cover? I did that for this film.
The film focuses on Victor (Dash Mihok), a “good-natured lummox,” as the movie describes him, whose brain and hearing have been affected from a childhood accident where he saved his younger brother from drowning an icy river. He carries around a violin he only played for his dead grandmother and lives a routined life. He eats breakfast with his brother at the family bar everyday, goes to the record store owned by Leo (Luke Wilson in a cheeky cameo) looking for Hank Snow albums, goes home, and repeats.
That is, until a beautiful and mysterious girl pops into town. The girl (Suki Waterhouse) goes by no name. She just arrives in Victor’s small town to cause chaos. Victor first sees her when she pops into the bar owned by his youngest brother, Jimmy, to “use the bathroom,” but she’s really there to smoke weed. She innocently plays it off to Jimmy and charms her way into Victor’s heart before leaving. With Jimmy suspicious but Victor entranced, a friendship begins to build between Victor and the girl. Their friendship is heartwarming if a bit cliched.
The basis of the story is that a guy who normally wouldn’t get the girl does get her in a way, but the girl is such a mystery that the movie would’ve had to have been be an hour longer to uncover her past. It’s been done. The girl never reveals her name, leaving Victor to name her. He gifts her with the name The Girl Who Invented Kissing, which should be a clue for what happens. The dramatic flare is saved for the end. Victor finally does something which is teased and obvious from the beginning of the film. The brothers get in a final confrontation that ends in a beautiful resolution between Mihok and Piazza before fading to black.
However, there are also a number of side stories that clutter the film. For example, Jimmy (Vincent Piazza) is not only Victor’s brother, but is also having affair with a married nurse. This stems to her storyline and the strained relationship with her cop husband. This then opens up a storyline about how the husband has a bit of a temper issue, which doesn’t paint police in a very good light. In my opinion, these subplots take away from the movie and leave a lot of loose ends. I would have rather seen the movie focus more on The Girl and Victor and possibly go a bit deeper into her story.
As Victor, Dash Mihok steals the show for me. The raw emotion in the scenes between Victor and Jimmy, and even him with The Girl, is beautifully performed. Victor might not be like the rest of the normal people in town, but Mihok lets the character flourish with a hidden intelligence and gentleness. Also, Waterhouse plays The Girl Who Invented Kissing with just enough mystery. She doesn’t overpower Mihok’s performance. She is also genuine when it comes to Victor, but her interactions with the other characters in the film come off as accusatory, guarded, and defensive. Even though the character’s only been in the town for a short while, she holds the secrets about the characters who are important to the plot. Waterhouse handles this well.
The movie is enjoyable and not at all what I expected, but it is still mediocre and doesn’t stand out to me. Mihok’s performance is what saved this film from dropping in my estimation. It is also great that the film handles a disabled character without overplaying the disability and making Victor seem like a victim. I would give The Girl Who Invented Kissing a solid 3 out of 5.