Breathe

Breathe poster

Breathe movie poster

For her sophomore directing effort, the French actress Mélanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds, Enemy) explores once again relationships between women, this time focusing on a couple teenage girls.

Charlie (Joséphine Japy) is a studious and introverted 17-year old girl raised in a broken home. While she seems to see her young mother (Isabelle Carré – Romantics Anonymous, Beautiful Memories) almost as an older sister, she doesn’t care much for her – mostly absent and cheating – father.  Unknowingly having an emotional void to fill, she throws herself almost instantly into a passionate friendship with Sarah (Lou de Laâge), a charismatic and wild new student. Of course, everything seems too good to be true and their relationship slowly but surely turns toxic.

The first half of the movie is without a doubt the most solid part. Advancing slowly and giving us some beautiful, almost contemplative sequences, Breathe does a fine job at showcasing onscreen how Charlie feels inside. Starting on a somewhat melancholic note, the movie changes tone with the arrival of Sarah, suddenly becoming gleeful and carefree. As soon as Charlie starts doubting her friend, we however get transported to a different kind of film, one ruled by cruelty, bullying and leading to an irremediable fate.

I must admit that Ms. Laurent shows great skills at making us experience the life of an 18-year old, more particularly when it comes to showcasing her characters’ inner turmoils and joys. She also pays a surprising attention to visuals and atmosphere – I’m suspecting she might have looked closely at Mr. Tarantino’s meticulous directing style – telling us she aims at becoming a serious filmmaker. As for the lead actresses, they deliver strong performances – including Ms. Carré playing against type  – carrying the movie through its rocky emotional journey.

There are however a few things that bother me here, starting with the fact that Breathe seems haunted by the success of Blue is the Warmest Color. Not only the relationships are similar – this one being platonic – but Sarah looks like a negative of Adèle both characters having similar traits. Ms. de Laâge also has a Béatrice Dalle (Bettie Blue) – je ne sais quoi – feel which makes you easily anticipate where her character is going. I also thought the second half wasn’t as convincing as the first one. I know Ms.  Laurent claims Larry Clark (Kids, Ken Park) as one of her influences but in Mr. Clark’s work despair is always creeping, thus leading to a logic conclusion, while here the changes in tones are too abrupt, making the ending not that credible – and the fact that Charlie is like her mom underlines this.

A solid but not fully convincing work, Breathe mostly positions Ms. Laurent as a promising female-centric filmmaker.

Director: Mélanie Laurent – Actors: Joséphine Japy, Lou de Laâge Dominguez – Running Time: 1:31 – Year: 2015 – Country: France
Click here to watch the Breathe trailer
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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.