Families collide in Kiss Me Before It Blows up, an adventurous but slightly uneven rom com about an Israeli woman bringing home her German girlfriend
Kiss Me Before It Blows Up is the debut feature from writer/director Shirel Peleg. Israeli Shira is certain she has met ‘the one’ after a whirlwind romance with German Maria and invites her to live with her in Tel Aviv. After an unplanned chain of events they quickly find themselves engaged, and Shira brings Maria home to introduce her to her family, headed by her chain smoking, rebellious grandmother Berta. Things were never going to run smoothly she’s told, as she’s brought home the ”triple whammy: lesbian, gentile and German.”
First things first, it’s nice to see an LGBT+ rom com where the central conflict is not a coming out story nor a family rift over sexuality. Both of the women are out to their families who are fully supportive of the prospect of a same sex marriage so the lesbian section of the aforementioned ”triple whammy” isn’t actually an issue at all. It’s numbers two and three that are. Shira’s father blindly insists that Maria will have to convert to Judaism if they ever want to have children together; whilst many, many awkward questions are asked about Maria’s German heritage and what her family did during the war.
The main obstacle to their relationship is the grandmother who is a Holocaust survivor and outright refuses to allow her granddaughter to marry a German girl. What was once a very close relationship between Shira and Berta hangs in the balance as the two argue it out over the course of the film, the arguments only made worse by what Shira sees as hypocrisy, for her grandmother is secretly dating a Palestinian man.
It’s rich territory for a romance story – a classic culture clash exacerbated by incredibly painful history – and it starts off fairly well. The approach to the ongoing implications of the Holocaust and how they affect each generation differently is for the most part sensitively handled and I enjoyed an attempt in Maria and her families storyline to discuss how young German’s today still feel weighed down by societal guilt. But the deeper the rift between the family grows, the more Kiss Me Before It Blows Up starts to fall apart.
Tonally it’s all over the place. There are rom com tropes so cheesy you would think they were parody (seriously, a band keeps showing up and just singing the word ”marriage” over and over again – it’s very odd) settled amongst heavy handed arguments and painful reflections. Coupled with some pretty ropey acting from the two stars in some scenes and it feels like no one could quite decide what genre they wanted to make this film.
It’s made worse by the fact that many of the characters read as horribly unsympathetic people, but not even in a fun, wink to the audience way. Shira’s dad is the worst offender for this, frequently ranting and shouting at the tv about fighting the ‘bomber Arabs’ whilst living in a heavily guarded compound in disputed territory on the West Bank. Whilst Shira attempts to poke fun at him being a ‘crazy old racist’ and represents generation with a more sympathetic outlook, it still makes for quite uncomfortable viewing.
In Kiss Me Before It Blows Up the scenes of in laws arguing aren’t quite funny enough and serious discussions about prejudice and history are not quite deep nor nuanced enough. Ultimately whilst the story might have had promise, it just fails to come together as a coherent package.
Kiss Me Before It Blows Up is playing as part of BFI Flare, the London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival, between 17th – 28th March. You can buy tickets to stream it right here