Movie Review by Simon Fox
Starring: Jude Law, Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright Penn, Martin Freeman
Director: Anthony Minghella
Will Francis (Jude Law) is a high flying architect who lives with his Swedish partner Liv (Robin Wright Penn), and her attention seeking – possibly autistic – daughter Bea (Poppy Rogers). Together with friend Sandy (Martin Freeman), he runs a flourishing business in Kings Cross. With their company “Green Effect” they plan to bring urban regeneration to the area, on a huge scale.
One night their company is broken into, resulting in Will losing his beloved laptop containing his life’s work. During another attempted robbery, Will traces one of the teenage thieves back to their home, and discovers he is a Bosnian immigrant living with his widowed mother Amira (Julliette Binoche). Will befriends Amira without her knowing who he is, becoming fascinated by her and they embark upon a passionate affair. A series of dramatic and emotional events ensues, and Will is prompted to re-examine what he values most.
BREAKING AND ENTERING is a film about a society and people in a state of flux, emotional and material theft, the distances between people, the repercussions of lying, prejudice and judgment, and a whole lot more.
And that is one of the problems with it.
The ideas are intriguing, but the script isn’t up to examining the themes that Minghella is trying to cover. So he has to resort to increasingly outlandish storylines to put his ideas across and make the characters behave in the way he wants. Plot points grind and creak into action, like a learner driver changing gear as the story lurches from one contrived set piece to the next. Some of these caused gasps of disbelief and sniggers of laughter at the screening I attended.
Another problem is that the film tries to offer a realistic snapshot of life in London at the moment, but it just doesn’t ring true. The result is that it becomes harder to identify with the characters and their situations if they don’t come across as believable.
Another issue is with the central role. Jude Law is an immensely gifted actor, but here he gives a strangely subdued and bewildered performance as if he’s not entirely sure what to do with the part. Mis-casting or bad scripting? Maybe a bit of both.
However the rest of the excellent cast give a good account of themselves, particularly Juliette Binoche as Amira and Robin Wright Penn as Liv who makes her role both moving and touching without resorting to hysterics or melodrama. Martin Freeman is also excellent as Sandy, and Ray Winstone is always good value as a C.I.D. officer investigating the burglaries. Vera Farmiga is hysterical as the Romanian prostitute Oana, who helps Will keep watch for further break-ins. Strong performances too from Poppy Rogers and Rafi Gavron in his screen debut as Amira’s son Miro.
There is actually quite a lot to enjoy in this film. The first half is moody and tense as the main characters are forced to move outside their comfort zone. We also get to see some of the seedier and non-touristy sides of London which is refreshing, thanks to some stunning cinematography. And some scenes, such as the ones exploring Will and Amira’s relationship are nicely written and developed.
But this still can’t disguise the awkwardness of the plot or bizarre behaviour of the characters. For example when Will comes home smelling of Oana’s perfume, Liv simply lets it go. In another scene Oana steals Will’s car, but then later returns it to him for no apparent reason. And if the film’s situations are supposed to reflect reality, then why are the characters and story so neatly resolved by the end? Doesn’t seem like any reality I know.
This all makes BREAKING AND ENTERING a rather infuriating film. It is a genuine and valiant attempt to explore complex and universal themes, but then descends into a jumble of contrived set pieces and over the top melodrama that are all resolved rather too neatly.
However it is certainly worth a look. There is much to enjoy, but just don’t expect anything new or profound.
Respectable applause then rather than a standing ovation, for a film that’s not quite as clever as it thinks it is.