Reviewer: Olivia Ustariz
Runtime: 102 minutes
Director: Paco Leon
I couldn’t help but squirm in my seat as the cinema screen sprang to life with the image of a man and woman having intercourse. Though Kiki, Love to Love (Kiki), commenced on an unconventional note, this Spanish romantic-comedy, written and directed by Paco Leon, quickly dissipated my discomfort. Leon’s restrained eagerness offers a vibrant, heart-warming excavation of the taboo subject of sexual fetishes.
Adapted from Josh Lawson’s 2014 Australian film, The Little Death, Kiki follows the lives of five individuals and couples, all of which are intertwined by a common problem. Their ability to achieve sexual satisfaction, and thus happiness, is being undermined by utterly unique, yet uniformly uncontrollable sexual fetishes.
With a cast diverse in age, but wholly captivating in their realistic performances, Leon humorously and empathetically follows their messy attempts to overcome their obsessions. For instance, Natalia (Natalia de Molina) reveals to her long-term partner, Alex (Alex Garcia), that she recently orgasmed while being robbed at knifepoint. Alex then childishly strives to appease Natalia’s ‘harpaxophilia’ himself, staging a number of ill-fated muggings.
However, Leon does not showcase these absurd encounters to ridicule the characters’ unusual desires. He illuminates the importance of communication in maintaining healthy relationships. For example, Paco (portrayed by the director himself) and Ana’s (Ana Katz) marriage is saved only when he acknowledges his wife’s homosexual tendencies and willingly invites her love interest, Belen (Belen Cuesta), to join their polygamous relationship.
While the film could have gotten a few laughs from cheap innuendos, Kiki pays homage to Leon’s background in sketch and variety TV shows. Leon’s sharp dialogue and aptly chosen offerings of physical comedy transcend age, race, and religion to deliver a transverse view of the natural, sexual needs of many. For instance, Sandra (Alexandra Jimenez) is at once intimately shown rubbing the shirt of a stranger due to her sexual arousal by the texture of good-quality clothes. This image is juxtaposed with a medium close-up shot of Sandra sitting in her clean, unexceptional office, thereby demonstrating that unique fetishes can affect even the most upright of citizens.
One storyline I did not enjoy, however, was the marriage between Paloma (Mari Paz Sayago) and Jose Luis (Luis Bermejo). Due to an accident, Paloma is now mostly confined to a wheelchair and regards her husband with indifference. Jose, who is aroused by watching people sleep, proceeds to drug Paloma and engage with her unconscious body. Their climatic confrontation is intended to suggest Jose’s benevolence in remaining faithful to his wife. However, no amount of upbeat acoustic music can make the likening of her body to a plaything seem humorous. While I understand that this storyline is intended to demonstrate the importance of honesty, as they manage to save their marriage once Jose expresses his need for intimacy, trying to make light of what is in fact sexual assault did not leave me smiling like the rest of the film.
In the end, however, the film is an entertaining and upbeat celebration of love. Leon shows us that sex is not something ‘icky’ to be ignored, but an expression of our infallibly human need for companionship and understanding.