Kelly (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) and Victor (Julian Morris) meet for the first time at a dance club. It is Victor’s birthday and Kelly gives him the best present that he could ever ask for. Kelly does things to Victor in bed that he probably never before imagined, leaving him somewhat confused about what just happened. Regardless, Victor is totally enamored with Kelly, but he does not want to seem too needy or desperate, so he waits a week before he attempts to contact her. Their next meeting plays like an awkward first date, because despite their intense physical connection last week, they barely know each other. Kelly and Victor are gentle, timid and soft-spoken; this is a sweet and tender beginning to an emotional rollercoaster of a relationship.
As Victor experienced during their initial hook-up, Kelly is more sexually aggressive and adventurous than he is. It seems strangulation, asphyxiation and cutting are normal things in Kelly’s sexual repertoire. On one occasion, Kelly does not take “no” for an answer and she pushes Victor beyond his comfort zone. Victor cuts off contact with Kelly and attempts to move on but both of them are visibly devastated by their separations. Kelly and Victor are soul mates who are destined to be together, and on one fateful day they are reunited. The conclusion might seem inevitable, like watching a car accident in slow motion, yet its chilling execution is absolutely debilitating.
Based on Niall Griffiths’ novel, Kieran Evans’ Kelly + Victor is an intense study of the fine line between tenderness and aggression in romantic relationships. Kelly + Victor also showcases the importance of communication during sex, especially in developing a clear and simple way of understanding each other’s limits. Evans plays with stereotypical gender conventions, specifically with Kelly who reveals both feminine and masculine traits. The casting of Antonia Campbell-Hughes as Kelly is truly inspired for this very reason. Campbell-Hughes’ girlish charm exudes a sweet innocence of someone who could never hurt a fly, let alone strangle or cut someone out of pleasure. We would never expect someone of her size to be able to control someone of Julian Morris’ build; then again, I think Campbell-Hughes’enrapturing wide-eyed gaze alone could probably convince most men to do just about anything she wants.
Most impressively, Evans is able to normalize and rationalize Kelly’s sexual habits. He does this quite cleverly by allowing Kelly to accompany her best friend (Claire Keelan) on a BDSM assignment. The scenario makes Kelly incredibly uncomfortable because she cannot comprehend the concept of sex and intimacy becoming a performance. Her own habits do not serve this purpose; for Kelly, sex is real not make believe. What we perceive as violence or aggression is merely Kelly’s way of intimately connecting with others. In this light, strangulation, asphyxiation and cutting are revealed to be normal, as long as done safely and with consent. That said, I am very curious about just how many people Evans will be able to convert to this way of thinking with Kelly + Victor.