When a director can bring words of a novel to the screen and enchant the eye with images that
could only be imagined from reading the novel, it is a tremendous escape. Director and Actor Simon
Baker manages to give life for the big screen to Author Tim Winton’s award-winning novel, Breath.
And what you have is a spectacular story so cleverly adapted for the screen with the visual splendour
only a Winton novel and exceptional eye for detail from Baker’s direction could bring to life.
Set in a small coastal town in the 1970s are two young boys, the best of friends. One is quiet and
calculated, Pikelet played by Samson Coulter. The other is loud and obnoxious, Loonie played by Ben
Spence. Together they build their love for the ocean and start to learn to surf. After a chance
meeting with an ex-pro surfer, Sando (Simon Baker) the boys take on some of the biggest waves that
would frighten even the most expert of surfers.
With the different paths the boys start to take Sando and Loonie end up travelling through Indonesia
while Pikelet is left on his own but not without company. Pikelet quickly starts to build an infatuation
with Sando’s wife, Eva played by Elizabeth Debicki (Everest, The Night Manager, Guardians of the
Galaxy 2). It doesn’t take long for the two to build a sexual relationship teaching Pikelet things he
would never dream of.
First time film Director Simon Baker most known for his work as The Mentalist or The Guardian had
his work cut out for him with Breath. Not only did Baker bring someone else’s written work to the
screen he also had to convert what is a truly visual story to the extremes of the imagination. The
visual splendour of this film is not one to be reckoned with. Thanks to the stunning coast line and
town of Denmark in Western Australia, Baker was able to bring a whole new character to the screen
alongside the talented actors.
While it was Baker’s first time directing, he was also having to direct first time actors Coulter and
Spence. It is hard to think watching their performances on screen that they are anything but novices.
Baker managed to tap into something with these boys and bring a unique naivety that might not
have been possible with seasoned actors.
Samson Coulter despite surfing at elite levels managed to capture the character of Pikelet with
absolute ease. There is one quote in the film & you’ve got this look. Like you’re expecting to lose
something which absolutely nails Coulter’s performance. He is so far in his own head calculating
every situation to the point he talks himself out of it. His performance is mesmerising to watch as he
navigates adolescence and this crazy world of surfing and sexual awakening.
Ben Spence, another elite surfer played up to his character and utterly stole every scene he graced.
From his opening few scenes his delivery and understanding of Loonie is frighteningly accurate. If he
didn’t have you in stitches laughing because his lines were hilarious, it was his delivery of a simple
line made side splitting hilarious. But beneath that is a very lost boy and what was interesting is he
managed to hide it until he had these internal conflicts and you just caught a glimpse of what is
going on in his head.
From the rugged bush landscape to the sweeping coast and amazing surf, Breath is a truly
spectacular film. The story pulls you in and you don’t quite know where it will take you. As you find
yourself immersed in the story line of each of the characters you are taken into another world.
Watching the surf roll in, watching the rain poor throughout the bush you lose yourself in some
pretty remarkable shots. The visual aspect of the film is ever as important as the story itself. It adds
an entire new character that is so important to what it is the story is telling. Without something so
special, you would be left with a film that doesn’t have any heart.
Overall this film is one truly special film to watch. While it does edge on the long side, it will
encapsulate you and leave you with thoughts long after the film has ended. With the visual
splendour of the ocean and coastal town it’s almost enough that you don't need the award-winning
novel with its thick and juicy story lines to carry it through. But together they tell a simple story of
life on the ocean and those crazy times in life where sometimes walking away is harder than
following it through.
Review by Jay Cook