If you were to find out that your life was heading towards a sad and lonely conclusion, but were given an opportunity to travel back and put yourself right: would it seem a blessing?
Not to Mia (Jodie Whittaker), the beautiful but troubled young woman in Dana Lustig’s A Thousand Kisses Deep, for with the aid of a cantankerous caretaker and a rickety elevator she must relive painful moments from an abusive relationship, a lonely childhood and confront some ugly truths.
In her first journey, we see Ludwig (Dougray Scott plays Mia’s abusive boyfriend) has the worst possible combination of traits. Devilishly handsome and a jazz musician, he is a libertine who craves the power that comes with the deeper emotional connection of a relationship. As such, he’s the type of man who won’t just wreck relationships: he’ll ruin lives.
On Mia’s birthday, after having worked late at Ludwig’s wife’s jazz bar and instead of having seen her own mother, he takes advantage of her insecurity and begins the affair, which the older Mia fails to stop.
She must now return further back to her childhood. Here, Emilia Fox steals practically every scene as Mia’s alcohol guzzling mother, a woman deeply unhappy she had to let go of her past hopes and dreams, and trade them for marriage and motherhood. Because of her, we see how Mia became the vulnerable 18-year-old who so readily allowed Ludwig to prey on her.
Yet these strengths didn’t quite work with the film’s premise. One was less interested in Mia’s attempt to come to terms with – and change – things, than in the psychology of the relationships themselves. It seemed a strange way to tell this particular story, given that it was about one man’s terrible effect on a woman’s life, rather than neither about how Mia’s journey would change her current self, nor whether she could overcome Ludwig’s devastation without eliminating him from her life.
Herein lies the film’s problem: it asks us to suspend our disbelief about its central conceit (as well as the ageing process) but this is a sideshow to the film’s beating heart. In one scene, Mia must watch as Ludwig ties her younger self to her bed in response to the loss of his watch, but the film never really explores the implications of this. Instead the story is out there in the room about a troubled young women and her relationship with this vile man.
Even with this rather large problem, it is worth watching. Dougray Scott and Emilia Fox play their morally dubious roles with relish, there’s the odd shocking twist, and as a film about troubled human relationships it has its moments. However, one can’t help but feel it would’ve been a better film if it had chosen to either focus on the relationships, or the more profound effects of delving into the past.
Watch the trailer of A Thousand Kisses Deep here