‘Breath’ Review: A Wistful Coming of Age Story about Surfing, Surrender, and Erotic Asphyxiation

IndieWire | 5/30/2018 | Staff
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“Breath” is a wistful and wounded coming-of-age story about surfing, surrender, and the sordid experience of losing your virginity to a married older woman who’s got a thing for erotic asphyxiation. The movie is able to ride a line right through so many of its genre’s worst clichés because it never stops negotiating between fear and desire, risk and reward. It’s an assured directorial debut from “The Mentalist” actor Simon Baker, who — after 12 long years — has finally done something more impressive than getting Anne Hathaway those “Harry Potter” manuscripts in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

“Breath” doesn’t spend that much time on the water, but it reckons with each wave — from ankle-busters to groundswells — and every single one of them dares these young protagonists to prove something to themselves. Without belaboring the point, or betraying the soft touch of the Tom Winton novel on which his film is based, Baker carves the sport into a useful metaphor for that part of growing up when everything the world throws at you feels like a dare. No other film — not “The Endless Summer” or “Blue Crush” or even the immortal “Point Break” — has so lucidly distilled the basic appeal of surfing, the pointlessness and elegance of “dancing on water as if it was the best and brightest thing a man could do.” Likewise, no other film has so sincerely addressed the confidence it takes to make some kind of peace with the ocean and hang up your board for good.

Breath - Winton - Book - Australia - Point

“Breath,” like Winton’s book, is set in Western Australia at some point during the seventies; unlike the source material, however, the movie doesn’t go out of its way to point that out. We get it from Marden Dean’s hazy and delicate cinematography (shades of “The Virgin Suicides”), and...
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