Some films subject child characters to various iniquities as a rather obvious way of pushing the audience’s buttons, others put their young performers in dramatic situations because they’ve got something to say about childhood and a world with scant respect for it. With this wisp of a feature from Ireland, it’s a bit of both. Pre-teens Kylie and Dylan are neighbours in a run-down estate on the outskirts of Dublin, where he dodges an alcoholic father and she’s hiding a dark secret involving sexual approaches by a family member. The images explode from black-and-white into colour when they leg it together into the city centre, stolen cash in their pockets and nursing a plan to stay with Dylan’s estranged brother. Behind the bright lights of the pre-Christmas rush, however, lurk many dangers these two barely comprehend.
While the film’s compassion is never in doubt, it’s sometimes a bit too cute for its own good, wedging in a resistible running gag (and mystery guest appearance) involving Dylan’s famous musical namesake, and a verging-on-crowd-pleasing knockabout schtick involving rollerskates. Elsewhere though, writer-director Lance Daly’s keen eye for Irish streetlife and even keener ear for authentic dialogue (not that you’ll catch every word) prove telling indeed, and in Kelly O’Neill and Shane Curry he has remarkably un-precocious leads who blur the line between being and acting. The story aims to highlight a turning point in these constricted lives when these two can still choose to rise above or be beaten down by their surroundings – the performances make you believe it.