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Breath

Year: 2017
Production Co: Gran Via Productions
Director: Simon Baker
Writer: Gerard Lee/Simon Baker/Tim Winton
Cast: Samson Coulter, Ben Spence, Simon Baker, Elizabeth Debicki, Richard Roxburgh, Rachel Blake

I don't know if Simon Baker's directed before but he takes Tim Winton's book and infuses it with such an evocative sense of Australia in the 1970s I couldn't help but respond to the movie no matter how slight the story felt at times.

Pikelet (Samson Coulter) is a fairly traditional coming of age hero – he belongs comfortably with his peers but his sensitivity makes him slightly separate from the concerns most early teens have in country Western Australia at the time. His best friend Loonie (Ben Spence), is a bit more devil may care, someone we don't see as deeply into as Pikelet.

They go to school, hang out at each others' houses, ride their bikes around the dirt tracks through the bush and go to the beach but they really want to surf, and when they come by a cruddy old polythene board they're hooked. They ride their bikes to the beach first thing in the morning on weekends and spend all day teaching themselves the way of the waves.

One day, trudging back home with their bikes and board, scruffy local Sando (Simon Baker) stops in his truck and offers them a lift. They're immediately taken with Sando's life, his shed full of awesome boards, his exotic American wife Eva (Elizabeth Debicki) and his idyllic home in the bush.

Sando takes both boys under his wing – lending them boards, teaching them to surf, taking them to the best spots, and though Loonie seems to be doing it for the thrills, Pikelet finds the touch of the divine many devoted surfers talk about in the power of the ocean.

After that it goes a bit awry and a bit hard to believe as he gets to know Eva a bit more, understanding how embittered and uncared for she is by Sando and the pair starting an affair. It might have been a bit more plausible in the book but I just couldn't accept the stately Debicki having feelings for a kid who's barely out of high school.

I'm not the only one who's commented on how low key the drama is and how little actually happens, but that was no doubt the point of the script and Baker's creative approach – to roll in slowly like a wave, giving you lots of glimpses of the beauty of nature and how the three leads accept and appreciate it.

You think you can feel certain elements building, like a profound breakdown between Sando and Eva or discord at home with Pikelet's dad (Richard Roxburgh) as Pikelet accepts another father figure, but Winton apparently wasn't interested in them and Baker isn't either.

There's a scene that reveals how Sando used to be a famous surfer who's conquered breaks all over the world when the boys find a box of old surfing magazines in his shed with him all over the covers, and when Sando reacts with anger at them knowing about his past you wonder what dark secret he harbours, but as a subplot it's dropped just as quickly and not mentioned again.

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