Monday, 30 July 2018

And Breathe Normally: NZIFF Review

And Breathe Normally: NZIFF Review

In lieu of a Dardenne Brothers New Zealand International Film Festival flick, this year's slice of social realism comes in the shape of Iceland's And Breathe Normally.

In the desolate wastelands of Iceland, single mother Lara is struggling - opening in a supermarket, we see her worrying about groceries, yet not accepting of a stranger's offer of financial help. Given a lifeline in the shape of a border security job, Lara's first week sees her excel when she spots a dodgy passport from someone in the queue.

That passport is owned by Adja, who's quickly shipped off to a refugee centre, prone to having people removed in the middle of the night for minimum fuss.
And Breathe Normally: NZIFF Review

However, Nina's actions sees the pair reunited in the most unexpected of ways, as she plunges further into hardship.

And Breathe Normally's debut by director Ísold Uggadóttir clearly has Ken Loach style aspirations, but as Nina spirals down into a world of just getting by and then starting to flounder, it has an all-too familiar global feel, one of reality for many.

Details are teased out of Lara's issues, and while Adja's problems may be more clear cut in terms of their familiarity, it doesn't make the journey any the less predictable, and those involved wisely keep the film from lapsing into melodrama or over-egging some of the more obvious elements.

And Breathe Normally's winning points come in the forms of what it says with subtlety - it adds fuel to the fire that social welfare and help still comes with a stigma, in that Lara refuses to accept the kindness of strangers, even when it's clearly the best thing to do - and only when misdeeds and mistakes point her in that direction.

With degrees of desperation setting in in this three-hander (four, if you count the occasional appearances by Musi, a cat rescued by Lara for her son), the performances are all evenly executed and subtly interesting enough to get under your skin.

It also adds much debate - mostly familiar, it has to be said - to the refugee discussion in Adja's treatment and while some of the latter third of the film strains a degree of plausibility (most certainly, its ending), And Breathe Normally's deeply rooted and grounded execution evokes plenty of empathy from the audience.

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