Film

Australian Surfing Drama “Breath” Falters as Soon as It Leaves the Beach

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A vividly sensuous teenage bromance kicks off the otherwise mostly unconvincing Australian surfing/coming-of-age drama Breath. Boisterous Loonie (Ben Spence) and withdrawn audience surrogate Pikelet (Samson Coulter) ride bikes, chop wood, laze about, daydream about girls, and try to ride huge waves like Byronic surfer-hermit Sando (screenwriter and first-time director Simon Baker).

Unfortunately, Baker and co-writers Gerard Lee and Tim Winton’s adaptation of Winton’s source novel loses its potency whenever it’s not focused on the sounds and textures that define Pikelet and Loonie’s world outside of surfing — especially the soft tread of flip-flops on damp earth, and the tinny whirring of bike tire spokes over dirt roads — and starts following Pikelet on his unbelievable road to self-actualization.

The surfing scenes, wherein Pikelet learns about both the appeal and danger of macho peer pressure, are attractive thanks to Marden Dean’s vivid underwater photography and Baker’s charming, Matthew McConaughey–esque surfer guru shtick. But Pikelet’s sexual awakening — he sleeps with Sando’s brooding wife, Eva (Elizabeth Debicki) — proves agonizing. Steel yourself for leaden pillow talk and a laughably dull, Fleetwood Mac–scored (of course, it’s “The Chain”) sex marathon montage, where Pikelet repeatedly bikes to Eva’s bed for chastely shot moments of kissing, squeezing, and humping. If only Baker and the gang had fleshed out horny hero Pikelet’s journey with the same earthy details that make Pikelet and Loonie’s friendship seem real enough to be worth mourning.

Breath
Directed by Simon Baker
FilmRise
Opens June 1, Village East Cinema

 

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