Despite its film festival status, Breath deserves zero positive comments towards any of its cast members.
The main actor, Samson Coulter, needed to pick up the tempo, because he talked completely unlike the speech pattern of normal kids, not a hint of any life in his words. His co-lead, Ben Spence, likewise always looked so unamused, even pathetically angry without giving himself enough breathing time. As a result, few facts are learned about either of these boys because they both continually hold back effort again and again. None of the other performances reached the collaborative efforts of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Marlon Brando in The Godfather Parts I and II, with no thanks to Simon Baker’s direction, who also stars in his cast. Simon’s portrayal relatively stood out the most, which says very little in relative to everyone else—unbelievable, this marks his directorial debut, and from watching this sample of his work, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that he should stick to directing.
Worse than the actors, Breath eventually disturbs your sanity of Howard the Duck levels. The main female character (Elizabeth Debicki), who is twenty years younger than her cinematic boyfriend, starts an affair with the main fourteen-year-old protagonist, who is less than half her age, and we’re expected to see it as normal despite Australia’s age of consent being sixteen, not fourteen. Breath never got an official MPAA rating, but due to foul language and nudity, and especially the disturbing normalized romance, it would definitely be rated R.
While I personally disliked Breath, at least its manhood representation keeps a proper mindset. Between the two boys you follow throughout, a believable low level of oxygen keeps them hyperventilated until they finally figure themselves out. They represent Australia’s true mentality throughout the 1970’s: being supposedly ready to desire growing out beards until the oceanic waves colored and textured like dull, torn tight jeans challenges their expectations.
Such identities told before the Yuppie era unroll themselves through small moments director Simon Baker (The Devil Wears Prada, The Mentalist) carefully lays out. Almost straightaway, a peaceful image of a dad and son fishing opens its themes, a segue into an introduction of the attention-thirsty friend. One memorable image shows the boys simultaneously trying to handle surfboards on their bikes, objects of ambition obtained after their hormone-heavy arms lug around cheap Styrofoam surfboards. Various other scenes of these two boys chopping wood to help a friend signify a girl’s perspective of how much machismo they really have.
Simon’s satisfactory creation of a Hippie-esque community brings all the lose ends together; one boy on a bike grasps onto an active truck to spend time around older kids, regardless of the danger the situation would put him in. Afterwards, the aura mellows back down once the boys turn mesmerized by the elegant sight of other surfers. Here, the mentor figure (Simon Baker) comes around, casually eating avocado toast as if he’s a representation of today’s millennials. Then there’s Eva, the mentor figure’s girlfriend, whose inner terror comes out fairly well by the script based on Tim Winton's award-winning novel.
Not that it excuses how nothing ever really happens. The absence of any narrative driving a hint of story worked better in the works off Richard Linklater, but here, the script is left to express miniscule life because of the minimal conflict—you are guaranteed to feel it more because of how much the acting sucks. Plus, its unnecessary voiceover narration fails to tighten a bustier to form a presentable self-identity, merely creating greater distance from the audience. Yet its reflective nature that gives nostalgic couples discussion topics, similar to what Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is famous for, still deserves a comment.
Although its adolescent depiction is less impactful than other celebrated teen movies, the screenplay’s structure can still potentially please depending on the tastes of the individual watching. Eva indeed brims a ghostly beauty as a strong portrait of Americans, being a Utah native, like an aquatic angel out of the dense foggy ocean the boys commit themselves to master. Other motifs include rain and seasickness on a boat, which help authenticate its usual coming of age themes enough to force your intimacy amongst seaweed to better understand on what lies beneath common knowledge.
So, Breath ends up not bad enough to hate though not good enough to recommend, like the fashion of some inexperienced teenage girl at an audition call she found on Facebook. While the casts’ dead eyes may bag as if they spent way too much time scrolling through Twitter, they seldom quite deserve a bull’s-eye for fiery darts.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
“Age of Consent Laws.” Australian Government. Australian Institute of Family Studies. Jul 2017. Web. <https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/age-consent-laws>.
Harvey, Dennis. “Toronto Film Review: ‘Breath’.” Digital image. Variety. WordPress, 15 Sept 2017. Web. <https://variety.com/2017/film/reviews/breath-review-1202559876/>.