Breathe (Mélanie Laurent, 2014): France

Reviewed by Claire Waterhouse. Viewed in Hollywood at the AFI Fest 2014.

Breathing is what keeps us alive. It can change our lives in an instant and similar to breathing, we crave  human interaction between ourselves and others for interaction is another key component of our survival. Breathe takes us into the life of Charlie who struggles with asthma and who longs for the companionship of her new friend, Sarah. Breathe is  directed by actress and screenwriter,  Melanie Laurent. This film takes place in present day and in it we explore the life of two teenage girls in France. Charlie, who we see the film through, befriends a new student at school and through this new relationship we are  taken on the spiratic ride with Charlie   We see the story from Charlie’s point of view and are shown extraordinary performances by the entire cast. The two lead roles, Charlie and Sarah are played by two actresses new to the screen, although this is something you would never guess, for it feels as though we are peeking into the lives of two real friends and their actual lives. Breathe focuses heavily on sounds and we hear Charlie breathe throughout the film, though it does not become noticeable until we go farther into the story. We can see how Charlie feels though her breathing, similar to how “the eyes are a window to the soul” through Charlie’s breathing rhythm we are given an honest account of her thoughts. We begin to breathe and live through Charlie’s character and as her breathing intensifies, so did the elements in the story. The film has been getting acclaim from festivals and was nominated at Cannes. This film reminded me of the film, Clouds of Sils Maria, in terms of character development and in the performances, both making it hard to take your eyes off of the screen. The camera movement remains static for the majority of the film but changes with the pace of breathing. The camera frames Charlie and like the sounds we hear, how she is framed also gives us insight into the events in her life and how she feels regarding Sarah. The relationship between Sarah and Charlie also reminded me of the relationship between the two leads in Clouds of Sils Maria, leaving us wondering about the real feelings and when who is being authentic and when. It is a film that makes us as an audience think, feel and genuinely become involved. I left the screening during the credits after the audience had given it an approving round of applause. It is a genuine look at life, love, relationships and the depths we can possibly dive into.

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