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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

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Based on Tim Winton's award-winning novel of the same name, the film follows two teenage boys, Pikelet (Samson Coulter) and Loonie (Ben Spence), growing up in a remote corner of the Western Australian coast. Hungry for discovery, the pair forms an unlikely friendship with Sando (Simon Baker), a mysterious older surfer and adventurer, who pushes the boys to take risks that will have a lasting and profound impact on their lives.

Review by Louise Keller:
Fear, life and death are the themes of Simon Baker's auspicious directorial debut in which surfing and sex play a key role. Adapted from Tim Winton's novel, Breath is essentially a coming of age film. Yet it is much more than that. At its heart, it is a buddy movie in which thrill-seeking plays a part as well as a love letter to a friendship forged underwater. It all begins when two young boys swim in a river and hold their breath.

Poetic, yet grounded by the water that defines it, Baker's film sweeps us away under grey clouds and tumultuous waves. The nebulous essence of water is both the film's zenith and nadir, providing the highs and lows for the narrative as a recreation sport and the pinnacle of endeavor, when determination and courage overcome fear. We hear (of surfing): 'You're completely alive; it's like you feel the hand of God.'

When Pikelet (Samson Coulter) sees surfing for the first time, the impact is profound. To him, this pointless, elegant pursuit of 'dancing on water' is the 'bravest thing a man could do.' Together with his daredevil pal Loonie (Ben Spence), life changes when the impressionable teenagers meet Sando (Simon Baker), a hippie surfer/adventurer, who inspires his proteges to push the limits - in every sense.

Baker captures the mood of the remote West Australian: the bushland, the wistful trees and the pounding surf that batters the rocks that look as though they have been painted by a dappled paintbrush. The underwater sequences, complete with misty blur provide glimpses of uncertainty.

The exposition begins slowly as it establishes the characters' reality and comes into its own when we, like the boys, become hypnotized by Sando, his lifestyle and sexy former freestyle ski champion wife Eva (Elizabeth Debicki), who mooches about, peering alluringly through flimsy sheer curtains surrounding the bed. The scenes of Pikelet's sexual awakening come somewhat as a shock.

Baker is superb as the laid-back surfer, constantly searching for the next frontier, while Debicki as the needy wife projects melancholy. Newcomers Coulter and Spence are outstanding as the two boys: Loonie as the daredevil who lives like he has nothing to lose and Pikelet, intent to prove he is not ordinary as he finds his way in his journey of discovery. Watch for Richard Roxburgh and Rachael Blake in small but important roles as Pikelet's parents.

Shot in Western Australia, the film looks fabulous through cinematographer Marden Dean's lens. The muted score by Harry Gregson-Williams keeps the mood hazy, just like the foaming waves that crash down majestically or swirl incomprehensibly as a foaming whirlpool of mystery. Recommended.

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(Aus, 2017)

CAST: Samson Coulter, Ben Spence, Simon Baker, Elizabeth Debicki, Richard Roxburgh, Rachael Blake

PRODUCER: Simon Baker, Jamie Hilton, Mark Johnson

DIRECTOR: Simon Baker

SCRIPT: Gerard Lee, Simon Baker (based on novel by Tim Winton)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Marden Dean, Rick Rifici

EDITOR: Dany Cooper

MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams


RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes



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