A story about teenage survival, Italian filmmaker Ivan Cotroneo’s film, One Kiss (Un bacio), offers all the fun of an ‘80’s high school flick combined with the real-world challenges facing LGBT youth today.
Set in the northeast of Italy in the present-day, One Kiss (Un bacio), introduces us to three unique characters. At the center of the trio is Lorenzo (played by Rimau Ritzberger Grillo), a gay 16-year-old who was recently adopted by a middle-aged couple. Fate brings Lorenzo in contact with Blu (Valentina Romani), a rough-around-the-edges teenage girl who is frequently bullied over her sexual conquests. The two fast become friends when their literature teacher seats Lorenzo next to Blu. Rounding out the trio is Antonio (Leonardo Pazzagli), a star athlete on the basketball team who is considered stupid by the rest of the school.
Each of these outsiders must work through their own struggles while leaning on each other for friendship and support. When overwhelmed, Lorenzo often relies on his creativity (and a somewhat cliché love for all things Glee) by envisioning himself in over-the-top song and dance routines that draw applause from the student population – students who, otherwise pick on him. Antonio, meanwhile, works through his problems through frequent discussions with his brother. A popular boy loved by everyone in town, there is only one problem with Antonio’s brother. He is dead.
The daughter of an author and blogger, Blu proves to be a more talented writer than her well-to-do mother. Blu’s narrative guides the audience from scene to scene, skillfully presented as letters from Blu’s future self to her teenage self.
These three musketeers frequently become the subject of prejudice and ridicule by a host of stereotypical high school cliques – the popular girls, the jocks, and a variety of homophobic and closed-minded students. Strengthened by these hardships, Lorenzo, Blu, and Antonio manage to exact their revenge in a few clever and humorous ways, which undoubtedly lands them in a Breakfast Club style of punishment for their actions.
The film reaches a critical point when the trio decides to go out for a swim. Misunderstood feelings and actions, with a dash of homophobia, places this group of friends on a disastrous path. The end result is tragic, to say the least, with Future Blu’s stoic narrative pointing out how powerful our actions can really be.
Overall, One Kiss (Un bacio) is an enjoyable story, brought to life by an expert writer and director. Many scenes feel very familiar, as the band of misfits endures the struggles of their teenage years set upon a music bed that includes the likes of Lady Gaga and Lamb. Audiences, however, will agree Un bacio is as influential as it is fun. A rallying cry against bullying, Ivan Cotroneo’s film is a stark reminder of the fragility of life. More specifically, a life facing prejudice.