Kiss And Cry packs an emotional wallop

KISS AND CRY (Sean Cisterna). 91 minutes. Opens Friday (February 10). See listing. Rating: NNNN

The young-adult weeper is not my favourite genre, so I was a little skeptical about Kiss And Cry when its release was announced. But then I watched it, and I was reminded of the thing I love most about the movies: they can surprise you, if you let them.

This biopic focuses on Carley Allison, a Toronto figure skater and aspiring singer whose perfect, happy life was derailed by a cancerous tumour on her trachea at the age of 17. The film’s title refers to the spotlit area where competitive skaters await their scores, not to the things you can expect to see in a movie about a sick teenager.

The film may present as a generic young-adult weeper, but director Sean Cisterna, screenwriter Willem Wennekers and star Sarah Fisher – who all previously collaborated on the 2015 gymnastics drama Full Out – refuse to let it be one. They push further, taking formal chances with their storytelling and avoiding the usual genre clichés to come up with something smart and genuine. They also know when they can lean into those clichés, as they do in a subplot involving Naomi Snieckus as a short-tempered chemo nurse.

It’s not perfect – the movie never really gets a handle on Allison’s boyfriend (Luke Bilyk), and its sense of time is a bit wobbly – but it’s much, much better than you might expect.

And the ending packs a real emotional wallop, especially if you’re coming to the movie without knowing very much about the story.

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