[Seattle International Film Festival] Kiss & Spell (2017) - Reviewed

Kiss & Spell screened at SIFF 2018

When a ghost-fearing magician falls for a girl on his stage staff, he must face his biggest fear. Why? Because Phuong, the girl he falls for, is a medium, plagued by ghosts on a daily basis. This leaves her reclusive, lonely and mysterious, while Tung is at the pinnacle of his career as magician. When he tries to include her in his personal life, he discovers that she has a ghostly secret and his affection for her is challenged by his gall for the supernatural. The latter is a recipe for hilarity and this is where this romantic comedy turns into great fun.

Kiss & Spell (AKA Yeu Di, Dung So!) was written and directed by the late Stephane Gauger, known for his work on Owl and the Sparrow (2007), Sài Gòn Yo! (2011) and Six-String Samurai (1998). He died in early January 2018, but left us with this comedic and touching gem. It is a Vietnamese production with English subtitles and has some of the creepiest make-up effects of any romantic comedy out there! (Yes, I said it)

Although Kiss & Spell is your typical romcom formula - complete with the sharp wingman who thinks the girl is not worthy, the girlfriends who try to help the girl out of her shell and meet someone and the misfit factor that makes the heroine relatable – its scenes are delightful to watch.

It may as well be called ‘how to train your boyfriend to deal with your ghastly hobby’, because most of the film centres around poor Tung trying to convince Phuong that his love for her transcends his fear of ghosts. This sentiment is continually tested when Phuong’s best friend, Van, haunts her incessantly about an old wrong that must be corrected.

As I said before, the make-up effects are delicious, although not too varied, and proves enough for the sparse scare scenes. The humor is mostly old school, so if you are easily offended by harmless references intended to compliment the context of the scenes, then please attend some milk protest somewhere instead. Some scenes had me laughing out loud with the comedic skills and timing of the actors as well as the subject matter. (The massage scene is especially juicy) But it is not only the comedy and the romance that holds this remake of the Korean film, Spellbound. Phuong’s loss of her best friend, her ineptitude at helping the ghost of Van find peace, and her overall loneliness strikes anyone who has ever felt the pinch of the forlorn. The visual effects, some in beautiful slow motion to accentuate the watery tragedy of the two best friends’ premature separation, make the film bleed over into emotional art in places.

Kiss & Spell is a heart-warming, slightly spooky, but hilarious romantic comedy that will have you trying The Five Kisses on your partner without provocation. Don’t ask. 

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-Tasha Danzig