Friday, June 1, 2018

Movie with Abe: Breath

Directed by Simon Baker
Released June 1, 2018

For many athletes, the game and playing it defines them and gives them an incomparable feeling that nothing else can mimic. It’s not all about an audience, though the thrill of being watched and cheered on by crowds can certainly contribute to the intensity and the drive to win. There is something inherently powerful about being able to hone a craft and become immersed in it, regardless of who’s watching and whether or not it’s competitive. Surfing is a particularly involving and incredible art that can be just as magnificent when the aim is merely to be one with the waves.

Simon Baker, Samson Coulter, and Ben Spence star in the film

In the 1970s on the coast of Western Australia, Pikelet (Samson Coulter) spends most of his days with his best friend Loonie (Ben Spence) biking around and causing trouble to entertain themselves. A mild interest in surfing leads them to a friendship with a former professional surfer named Sando (Simon Baker) who gives them a place to store their boards and introduces them to more daring waves, as well as to his wife Eva (Elizabeth Debicki), another former athlete whose own serious injury gives them a glimpse of what they stand to lose if they continue to wade further into the water.

Hugh Jackman, Deborra-Lee Furness, and Baker at a special screening of the film

The most compelling element of “Breath” is not its characters or its dialogue but the astonishing visuals it presents. As if watching the water from the shore wasn’t beautiful enough, each shot featuring each of the three protagonists catching a wave is immersive and dazzling, seeming to capture the audience as it ripples across the screen. Water cinematographer Rick Rifici deserves enormous credit for giving this film the most authentic look possible, demonstrating with his camera the beauty of the water and what it feels like to smoothly ride a humongous wave.

Baker introduces a special screening of the film at the Angelika last week

Australian actor Baker, best known in the United States for his starring role on ”The Mentalist,” makes his feature directorial debut behind the camera, casting himself in an important supporting role but allowing the focus of the film to remain on Pikelet and the way in which he sees the world. Both Coulter and Spence are terrific finds, and the focus of the story on their experiences proves very effective, with Baker and Debicki giving more appropriately sedated, lived-in turns as adult counterparts for these young adventurers. More than anything, this film succeeds as a mesmerizing collection of unfettered joy and amazement externalized by its characters as they catch a wave and create unforgettable memories that the audience can watch with delight.


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