At the start of Kiss Me the latest film by writer/director Alexandra-Therese Keining, Mia (Ruth Vega Fernandez) becomes engaged to her boyfriend, Tim (Joakim Nätterqvist), not long before the engagement celebration for Mia’s father. At the party the happy couple is eager to tell Mia's family their news. But when Mia meets Frida (Liv Mjönes), the free-spirited daughter of Mia’s father’s betrothed, the women develop a chemistry almost instantaneously. Their initial attraction evolves quickly into love, throwing everything Mia thought she wanted into a whirlwind.
Kiss Me -- or Kyss Mig in the film’s native Swedish-- explores the complexities of a budding romance, set against the backdrop of infidelity and self-exploration. What may seem like a formulaic plotline (the straight girl conversion story has become decidedly commonplace in the lesbian film genre) is intensified by the women’s relationship with their respective families, experiencing varying degrees of acceptance and understanding.
Mia struggles with her sexuality almost immediately after her first kiss with Frida. Looking visibly uncomfortable, she rides in a car with her fiancé and her mistress, seated literally between them. This scene highlights Mia’s uncertainty as she wrestles with her love for the man that will provide her security and her new exciting lesbian love affair.
Mia's father, Lasse, is conservative and distant, but he appears to be even more elated about his daughter’s engagement than his own. Despite the fact that his fiancée, Elisabeth (Lena Endre, who played Erika Berger in the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), is incredibly close with her daughter, Frida, Lasse’s relationship with the young woman is strained, implicitly due to the fact that Frida is an out lesbian. Mia’s tense relationship with her father, along with her ongoing desire for his love and approval, adds to Mia’s fear about her new love.
The film is gorgeously shot with primarily soft lighting and accompanied by a beautiful and contextually supportive score. The lead actresses, Fernandez and Mjönes, are certainly beautiful, but their brave performances are what carry the storyline. The establishment of an intense love affair is somewhat rushed in the film, connoting more of an infatuation between the two women, but smart dialogue and steamy sex scenes keep the viewer invested in the budding romance.
As the lesbian filmmaking continues to evolve, both in the United States and abroad Kiss Me will stand as one of the strongest in recent memory. More than just a love story it also deals with the heartache of broken relationships and the complex process of coming out. Kiss Me was the Audience Award winner at the 2011 AFI FEST, and it will be released on DVD by Wolfe Video this Tuesday, November 6.