Breaking and Entering
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Anthony Minghella
with Jude Law, Robin Wright Penn, Juliette Binoche, Martin Freeman, Rafi Gavron, Poppy Rogers, Ray Winstone, Juliet Stevenson, Vera Farmiga, Caroline Chikezie, Mark Benton, Anna Chancellor
release UK 10.Nov.06, US 8.Dec.06
06/UK Miramax 1h59

The distance between us: Law and Wright Penn

binoche freman winstone

London Film Fest

Click here to buy posters! Support Shadows: Buy a Poster

Breaking and Entering Minghella returns to his roots for a moody and stylish London drama that's full of terrific scenes and strong performances. Although it's a little contrived and overwrought.

Will and Sandy (Law and Freeman) have started an environmentally friendly architecture firm in Kings Cross. But their trendy warehouse office space proves to be a magnet for burglars, most notably the acrobatic teen Miro (Gavron). For Will, these break-ins are a welcome distraction from his troubled long-term relationship with Liv (Wright Penn), whose autistic teen daughter (Rogers) is a real challenge. After following Miro home, Will worms his way into the life of Miro's mother Amira (Binoche), a Bosnian refugee. Is this a big mistake or a new future?

The film is essentially an examination of the distances between people, in this case the diverse residents of a London neighbourhood, with their contrasting backgrounds, hopes and fears. As a result, the film is full of ideas and themes we identify with; and the cast is strong enough to keep us engaged even when the story gets both obvious and sentimental. And when Minghella indulges in trite symbolism while stretching a simple story into an overlong melodrama.

But there's plenty to enjoy. Law and Binoche carry their conflicted characters well, while Wright Penn beautifully conveys inner turmoil without sinking into misery. These are raw, rough-edged characters who continually resist stereotypes. The supporting cast is even better, most notably Gavron's sympathetic young thief. But subplots featuring Farmiga and Chikezie seem to vanish just when we want to know more. And the terrific Freeman, Winstone and Stevenson are on screen far too briefly.

The whole film has this underdeveloped feel to it: plot strands dangle everywhere, while most of the quirky details turn out to be irrelevant (such as the daughter's autism or the mix of nationalities). But then, perhaps that's the point. This is a slice of life movie, catching a group of random people bound together by the most unlikely events and experiences. In this sense, it's beautifully observant and hopeful, with a wonderfully cathartic climax. But it doesn't tell us anything new.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 1.Sep.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Breaking and Entering RMJ, Toronto: 3/5 "I had to think pretty hard to remember the plot. The characters, yes -- they stick in the mind, a good sign that they were at ease in the story and in their own stories. But what was all that about? Another case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts. The film wanders off -- almost showing off -- in side-bars about architecture, about autism, about immigration. Some of these will strike powerful chords in narrow segments of the audience. For some reason the fox made an impression on me. Maybe because there's also an intrusive fox (off screen) in Red Road, a far superior film about human alienation from Glasgow, with no stars in it at all and an almost unbearably tight and utterly gripping script." (26.Sep.06)
2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall