Director: Simon Baker.
Cast: Samson Coulter, Ben Spence, Simon Baker, Elizabeth Debicki, Richard Roxburgh, Rachael Blake.
|Everyone was really happy about what the day would bring.|
Based on Tim Winton's ninth novel, it's the coming-of-age tale of Pikelet (Coulter) and his mate Loonie (Spence), who live in the fictitious Western Australian community of Sawyer circa the '70s. Their lives consist of riding their bikes, going to school, and getting up to adolescent mischief; that is until they discover a passion for surfing.
With some shitty boards under their arms, Pikelet and Loonie begin spending every spare second in the surf, eventually crossing paths with older waverider Sando (Baker) and his American wife Eva (Debicki) - a meeting that will change everyone's lives.
Having not read Winton's book, I can't comment on the closeness to source material, but the story of Breath the film is intriguing. It floats along at a predominantly gentle pace, and its main dramatic moments are low-key - you spend a while wondering where it's all going and when it gets there it delivers with a minimum of fuss. Despite this at times meditative quality, it never feels dull.
This is due to it's assured storytelling and interesting characters, all overseen by confident direction from Baker, despite it being only his first time helming a feature film. Only a couple of shots that move away from Pikelet's perspective as narrator, momentarily breaking the narrative tone, distract from an otherwise great job by Baker.
He's also solid in front of the camera, as are newcomers Coulter and Spence as the lead teens. While not mindblowing, Coulter and Spence do a great job in their roles, handling the dramatic needs as well as the physicality required for the surfing scenes, and carrying the film in general (Coulter in particular is in every scene).
Debicki's performance is the standout though. Eva is a complex character and Debicki makes her believable for all her frailties, flaws and contradictions.
Breath effortlessly captures that distinctly Australian way of life that bridges the bush and the beach. It's also an ode to the life of the waverider - it lingers over its slow-mo surf sequences, which look great. Shot around Denmark and Albany, it makes the most of the scenery. It's also quintessentially Aussie but rarely ocker. Pikelet and Loonie offer some wonderful turns of phrase that ring true and never wander of into "fair dinkum Strine" territory.
The film works best on a thematic level. It's a coming-of-age tale but really it's about fear. It's about the limits we will push ourselves too, and how people seek out those thresholds as a way of feeling alive and understanding themselves.
Baker is to be commended for bringing this story to the big screen and delivering it so well. Across all areas it's a success, making it one of the better Aussie films in recent years.