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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Breathe

Breathe (or in the French, Respire), was co-written and directed by Melanie Laurent, best known as an actress for her role as the vengeful theater owner in Inglourious Basterds. Her second film is a chilling psychological drama that never lets you get comfortable watching it.

The story of a high school girl and her new friend, the script is one of many about students that helpfully tells us what the movie is about during a class. The teacher asks the students, does passion increase freedom, or inhibit it? In this case the passion is the feeling Charlie (Josephine Japy) has toward the new girl in school, Sarah (Lou de Laage).

Charlie is inhibited, partly because her parents are breaking up (in the opening scene she overhears them arguing), partly because she just doesn't want to open up (her first sexual experience went awry because it hurt and she hasn't tried since). Sarah waltzes into her life and changes everything. She is extroverted, wild, and daring. She's also dangerous.

There have been a lot of films about the perils of a new friend, but this one plays it low-key (unlike the ridiculous Single White Female) but Breathe felt fresh, largely because of the performances by Japy and de Laage, and partly because the script made it all make sense. Charlie is in such a bad way that she clings to the friendship of the more glamorous Sarah, and Sarah, who is spectacular at telling lies, longs for the family life that Charlie has.

I also must say the ending is quite stunning. There is an undercurrent of menace running through the whole film, but it ends completely differently than I imagined it would. Laurent is a director to watch.

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