Dir/scr: Anthony Minghella. UK. 2006. 119mins.
Anthony Minghella's firstcontemporary London-set film since Truly MadlyDeeply in 1991, Breaking And Enteringis an ambitious but disappointing affair revolving around middle class folkfrom North London in crisis. Although handsomely produced and featuring one ortwo noteworthy performances, it is hijacked by a surprising lack ofplausibility, both in the actions and emotions of its characters.
Audiences will find it hardto like or respond to the lead character Will Francis, a privileged architectin a lifeless long-term relationship whose search for connection leads him to aBosnian Muslim refugee. Will is an unusually self-absorbed and humourless leadcharacter and Minghella's male muse Jude Law cannotrender his behaviour any more understandable in the flesh than it waspresumably written on the page.
Specialised filmgoers willrespond to the film-maker's name, the cast and the prospect of a smart adultdrama which treads some of the same ground as Naked, Dirty Pretty Things orIntimacy. Word-of-mouth won't catchfire, however; the cultural specificity of its London setting will inhibit itsreach in the US (opens Dec 8 in NY/LA), while scrutiny from the aggressivemedia will be unusually fierce in the UK (opens Nov 10).
The convoluted storylinecontains a host of themes from the human cost of urban renewal to therelationship of man to nature, the aftermath of the Balkan war to the influenceof Britain's enormous immigrant population; from the power of motherhood to theimpact of difficult children on the family unit.
The film starts with avoiceover from Will announcing that he and his Swedish girlfriend of many years- Liv (Wright Penn) - have lost touch with eachother's needs and that their relationship is stagnant. She has given up hercareer as a documentary film-maker to care for her daughter Bea (Rogers), an autistic 12-year-old obsessed by gymnastics, and isunable to let Will enter their circle of two.
He is partnered with Sandy(Freeman) in a prosperous landscape architecture firm called Green Effect whichis working on a (fictional) job to redirect the canal through the heart of the(real) reconstruction programme in the grimy King's Cross area, infamous forits high crime rate and prostitution. The two have invested in new officesadjacent to the construction site and the drama begins as their Apple computerequipment is dropped off by a delivery firm run by Serbian immigrants.
Unbeknownst to them, theSerbs are planning to steal the equipment back the same night. The gymnasticnephew of one of them - Miro (Gavron)- breaks in through the glass ceiling and quickly disarms the alarm beforeletting in his co-conspirators. The team pulls off the heist twice insuccession, causing Will and Sandy to start their own improbable night-timestakeout of their own offices in an attempt to catch the thieves.
While the depression-proneand impenetrable Liv seeks help from a therapist(Stevenson), Will starts to look outside the relationship for fulfilment,engaging in a platonic friendship of sorts with a sassy Russian hooker (Farmiga) who joins him on his stakeouts. One night as thetwo sip coffee, he sees Miro clambering down theoffice wall and sets out on foot in pursuit.
He follows him to the bleakcouncil estate where Miro lives with his mother Amira (Binoche), a Bosnian Muslimstill suffering from the war in Bosnia which killed her Serb husband and hasleft her 15-year-old son spiralling into a life of truancy and petty crime.
Rather than reporting thelocation of the thief to the police - here represented by implausiblywell-meaning CID officer Ray Winstone - Will startscourting the reticent Amira (breaking and enteringinto her heart'), at first pretending to need her tailoring services. Knowingthat Miro will know who he is, he leaves his cardwith her, suggesting that Miro comes to the GreenEffect offices to pursue a nascent interest in architecture.
By the time Will gets Amira into bed, she has discovered that he knows her son isa criminal and thinks Will has betrayed her. So she sets about her own deceit,taking compromising pictures of Will with her while he sleeps.
Meanwhile Bea gets involvedin an accident on the construction site, bringing Will's relationship with Liv to crisis point. When Miro isarrested, Will realises that he has jeopardised his life's true love.
Most compelling here are Binoche and 16 year-old newcomer Gavronas the refugees. The French actress, who of course won an Oscar for Minghella's TheEnglish Patient, is the most convincing of the three females all affectingaccents not their own (Wright Penn and Farmiga areboth American). Binoche inhabits the role ofprotective mother and war-wounded soul with a conviction that is one of thefilm's only authentic elements. Gavron is an excitingnew face as the fatherless teenager with a good heart who is goaded on by hisSerbian uncle to continue stealing.
But the film chooses not tomake the Bosnians its principal focus, placing the main emphasis on the chillyrich couple as they sip Pinot Grigio, bicker abouttheir daughter and look unhappy yet gorgeous in their palatial house. By thefilm's end, Bosnian mother and son have packed up and gone back to Sarajevo,and self-satisfied Will and dour Liv are back ontrack.
Quite what life lessonseither rich family or poor family have learned from their brushes with theother remains unclear as the sleek score by Gabriel Yaredand Underworld heralds the end credits.
MGM/The Weinstein Company
Gabriel Yared & Underworld
Robin Wright Penn