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Breath - Rounding up the Usual Suspects
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steve98052
steve98052
Breath
SIFF's capsule summary: "Two Australian teens in the 1970s discover the liberating world of surfing and find a mentor in an enigmatic big wave rider (The Mentalist star Simon Baker, making his directorial debut) who pushes them to take increasingly dangerous risks, from the novel by Tim Winton. Ages 17+." (Australia, 2017, 115 minutes)
SIFF link: Breath

In 1970s Western Australia, Bruce "Pikelet" Pike (Samson Coulter) and Ivan "Loonie" Loon (Ben Spence) are best friends, and love to swim. In adolescence, they discover surfing, and then meet surfing guru Bill "Sando" Sanderson (Simon Baker) and his gloomy, wife Eva (Elizabeth Debicki). In a subplot, Pikelet finds a girlfriend (Miranda Frangou) whose name is never spoken clearly enough for me to have caught it.

5 Fair Unlike yesterday's impressive The Russian Five, this film doesn't really rise above my usual weak interest in sports films. Yes, the surfing photography is beautiful – and the boys do their own stunts – but it's still not much more than just a sports movie. It's also not great as a coming-of-age story, because the boys don't really grow up much. It is an excellent mentor-student story, but that aspect doesn't carry the film. Other than the surfing, the directing is unimpressive, and suffers from "male gaze" any time Debicki is on screen. (The "male gaze" aspect works with Frangou, because there it's from Pikelet's point of view in her case.)

On the good side, the acting is good to very good throughout. And the score is very good. But the film can't rise above a story that doesn't really say anything. I rate the film fair overall.

Note that my lukewarm reaction is somewhat atypical. The book is well-regarded and the author widely acclaimed. The film seems to have done well among professional critics. But I was less impressed.

Languages: English.

Rating: I don't think this film has a US rating (yet), but it deserves a hard "R" for sexuality (and slight nudity).

Screening: 2 pm, Pacific Place (room 4).
Audience: a typical SIFF press screening crowd, somewhat over 100, about 285 seats (estimated capacity).

Snacks: none.

Ads and announcements: no ads at press screenings; SIFF volunteer "J" provided announcements.

Notes to myself:

SIFF statistics: 6 films (all features), no parties.

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