**** out of *****
Directed by Melanie Laurent
Starring: Josephine Japy, Lou de Laage, Isabelle Carre, Radivoje Bukvic, and Claire Keim
Theatrical Release Date: September 11, 2015
A few minutes into director Melanie Laurent‘s second feature film (we know her best from her role as the blonde bombshell in Inglourious Basterds), Breathe, a French classroom setting is revealed to us and a discussion is ongoing about the potential ramifications of passion. One high school students’ observation can be seen as a portent: “Passion is harmful when it becomes obsessive.” This is foreshadowing at its most glaring, but even when we think we know the suspected trajectory of Ms. Laurent’s new film she quickly lays rest to our expectations and sets in motion a new path we hardly anticipate.
Somewhat resembling the temperament of its main subject manner (young adolescent teens) Breathe‘s narrative is jumpy and occasionally unsure of itself. Appearing as a teenage drama mirroring a French version of Mean Girls, and then obsessed with a latent romance resembling the unabashed Blue is the Warmest Color, the audience tends to receive Laurent’s film intermittently instead of as a cohesive whole. Though this can be seen as a criticism it also allows us to gaze on her potential brilliance as a filmmaker. The various tonalities that her film harbors are stunning. It is this unpredictability that arouses our interests. Adapted from Anne-Sophie Brasme‘s novel, Laurent, along with Julien Lambroschini who helped co-write the script with Laurent, seems to be attracted to familial angst, chaotic domesticity issues, and inseparable relationships. All of which resemble her first director effort, The Adopted (2011).
With a simple tale of friendship that soon blossoms into something more profound and dark, Laurent portrays the inextinguishable vitality found evident and thriving in a brand new friendship, which then quickly dissipates and vanishes entirely too quickly. As soon as Charlie (Josephine Japy), a 17-year-old with a bright future despite her parents’ marriage plummeting, locks eyes with Sarah (Lou de Laage), a charismatic new student transferring from another high-school, a consummate relationship is initiated.
The film shows us in montage how quickly the two grow so fond of each other. They do it all together; creating an incessantly burgeoning relationship that soon does not merely involve friendship. Irrepressible sexual tendencies ensue when Charlie invites Sarah to her family’s campsite, where Charlie’s mother (Isabelle Carre) plans to get over her husband (Radivoje Bukvic).
Joesphine Japy and Lou de Laage are able to establish a true, believable friendship that soon teeters on sexual intimacy because they each perceive in the other the one lacking quality that only the other can provide. Japy’s Charlie is lacking a role model and Laage’s Sarah is missing a disciple. As heartbreaking secrets are revealed and when sexual intimations are miscommunicated, Charlie and Sarah begin to separate and are consumed with an intense disliking of one another. Each goes off in their new group of friends. And in an act of desperation Charlie pleads to Sarah that she hates when they are apart.
Such sudden statements, whims, and acts are what render Charlie and Sarah’s relationship unsustainable. Their immediate connection has to have some implications. The amount of time they spend with one another and how they rely on one another proves to be detrimental to both. Each possesses ungovernable desires for sexual intimacy and irrepressible, raging emotions incapable of being tamed. Breathe, by navigating multiple genres and elaborate, misunderstood emotions, adequately critiques and examines the extremely temperamental and impulsive dispositions of teenage women that could develop into something more severe.