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R
| | 2 hr 9 min | Comedy, Drama

A glamourously made-up Patrick "Kitten" Braden (Cillian Murphy) pushing a baby in a pram, flirting insouciantly with construction workers and introducing her life story. Intricately plotted, the film is divided into over 30 brief chapters, each titled onscreen and written in the voice of main character, who is often shown writing autobiographically-inspired fiction within the film. In the fictional Irish town of Tyrellin, near the border of Northern Ireland in the 1960s, cartoon robins narrate via subtitles as Baby Patrick's mother abandons him on the doorstep of his father, Father Liam (Liam Neeson), who places him with an unloving foster mother. A young Patrick (Conor McEvoy) is shown donning a dress and lipstick, much to the chagrin of his foster family. Patrick is accepted by his close friends Charlie, Irwin and Lawrence, as well as by Lawrence's father, who tells Patrick that his biological mother looked like blonde American movie star Mitzi Gaynor and ran away to London. Cillian Murphy as Patrick "Kitten" Braden The story is quickly moved ahead to Patrick's late teen years in the early '70s, with Murphy looking glam and androgynous in a curly perm hairdo, bell-bottoms, platforms and makeup. Patrick gets into trouble in school by writing explicit fiction imagining how he was conceived by Father Liam and Liam's young housekeeper Eily Bergin (Eva Birthistle) and by inquiring about where to get a sex change. Patrick renames himself/herself as "Kitten," also using the name Patricia. She approaches her father in confession, asking about her mother, but is rebuffed. Kitten runs away from home, catching a ride with a glam rock band, Billy Hatchet and the Mohawks, and striking up a flirtation with leader Billy (musician Gavin Friday). Billy installs the lovestruck, homeless Kitten in a trailer home (though it's ambiguous whether a romance is consummated), where she discovers he's hiding guns smuggled for the Irish Republican Army. Meanwhile, Irwin (Laurence Kinlan) has begun to work with the IRA, much to the dismay of his now-girlfriend Charlie (Ruth Negga). Kitten dismisses Irwin's politics as "serious, serious, serious," but after Lawrence (Seamus Reilly) is killed by police detonating a suspected IRA car bomb, she tosses the IRA gun cache into a lake. Billy abandons Kitten to flee the IRA, while Kitten manages to talk her way out of being shot. Kitten next journeys to London to search for her mother. Initial inquiries prove fruitless, and penniless, she finds shelter in a tiny cottage in a park, only to find that she's in a children's entertainment park for The Wombles. She gets a job as a singing, dancing Womble, but immediately loses it when her sponsor, co-worker (Brendan Gleeson), punches their boss. Forced into prostitution, she is violently attacked by her first client (Bryan Ferry), saving herself from strangulation by spraying him in the eyes with Chanel No. 5 perfume. At a diner, magician Bertie Vaughan (Stephen Rea) asks to hear about what Kitten is writing in her notebook. She explains that it's the story of "The Phantom Lady" who was "swallowed up" by the big city, then reveals that it's the story of the mother she is seeking. Bertie hires her to be his magician's assistant, exploiting her life story in a hypnosis act. The two take a romantic day trip, but when Bertie leans in to kiss Kitten, she stops him, explaining that she's not really a girl. Bertie says that he already knew this, yet he doesn't kiss her. Soon, Charlie finds Bertie's show and, feeling Kitten's role in the show is derogatory, takes Kitten away. Murphy as "Kitten" in the peep show booth Next, Kitten goes to a club frequented by British soldiers and finds romance dancing with a soldier Dominic Cooper, only to be injured when the club is bombed by the IRA. When police discover that Kitten is biologically male and Irish, she is arrested as a suspected terrorist. Beaten and prevented from sleeping by British police, she writes a hyperbolic statement, shown in a fantasy sequence where, in an Emma Peel-style catsuit, Kitten renders IRA conspirators helpless with her bombshell sexuality and sprays of her trusty Chanel No. 5. The cops soften, realizing that she is innocent, and let her go. Kitten is again forced to turn tricks, but is saved by one of the cops who interrogated her (Ian Hart). He brings her to a peep show where she joins the dancers' collective and transforms herself into a high femme blonde. Her repentant father finds her in her peep show booth, and in a scene that mirrors the confessional scene from the beginning of the film, professes his love and tells Kitten where to find her mother. She goes to her mother's house posing as a telephone company market researcher and discovers a younger half-brother whose name is also Patrick. She faints upon meeting her mother, but after reviving does not reveal herself as the abandoned son. When Irwin is killed by the IRA and Kitten goes home to tend to a pregnant Charlie, they are sheltered by Father Liam. But the town reacts against the unwed mother and her transgendered friend by firebombing the parish house. Kitten and Charlie flee to London. In the final scene, they run into Kitten's mother Eily and little Patrick at the doctor's office, where Charlie is getting post-partum care. Eily is pregnant again. Kitten is friendly, but still doesn't reveal her true identity. She seems very happy with Charlie and the baby. The robins wrap up the story with irreverent narration.

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Stars
Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Stephen Rea, Brendan Gleeson, Eva Birthistle
Director
Neil Jordan
Language
English
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