Review / ‘Breath’ (M) ****

Simon Baker as Sando with, from left, Ben Spence (Loony) and Samson Coulter (Pikelet) in “Breath”.

I LIKE to imagine the conceiving of “Breath”, the movie adaptation of “Breath” the novel that won the 2009 Miles Franklin Literary Award, as surely a felicitous moment for producer/director/writer/actor Simon Baker and novelist Tim Winton.

It’s a risk-taking Australian film that I hope will travel far and wide, to delight viewers around the planet with its simplicity, its visual beauty, its awareness of those hazardous years during which boys cross the invisible lines separating the years they already know from the years that await them with unknown challenges.

Set in Australia’s south-west corner during the 1970s, “Breath” introduces Loony, son of a publican, and Pikelet, from a comfortable but unexciting middle-class home. Both will be 14 at their next birthdays. Much of their friendship involves riding their bikes through the bush. They decide to venture into the surf on homemade boards. When an older man Sando gives them a lift home, the boys have no notion where his friendship will guide them.

While “Breath” isn’t a surfie movie, the spectacle and courage of Rick Rifici’s water cinematography both above and below the surface are breathtaking. Ashore, Marden Dean has filmed the forests and shores of the area with great beauty.

Playing what develops into the principal character, new-comer Samson Coulter is a real find as Pikelet, essentially a gentle, impressionable boy for whom taking risks in the water does not come as a matter of course. Ben Spence, also a newcomer, plays Loonie, whose family problems do him no favours. Simon Baker’s delivery of Sando is what we may expect from this established actor turned cinema polymath.

As Sando’s American girlfriend Eva recovering from a skiing injury, Elizabeth Debicki confronts a clutch of professional obstacles. Why, while Sando and Looney are away, does she give herself to Pikelet’s undeniably beautiful body? And the sound crew has done her no favours when recording her voice (not her fault). Megan Smart has a minor role as the classmate willing to go all the way with Pikelet after the school social and doesn’t understand why he opts out. Raechel Blake and Richard Roxburgh play Pikelet’s parents.

I came away from “Breath” feeling a warm sense of pride in this Australian cinema achievement. I know no reason for you not to do the same.

At Dendy, Palace Electric and Capitol 6

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private.