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September 14, 2006
Honest and Engaging

Anthony Minghella’s “Breaking and Entering” is such a departure from the sweeping period epics that made him famous that one almost cannot believe that it comes from the same auteur who gave us “The English Patient”, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and "Cold Mountain". Yet the tremendous care Minghella brings to filmmaking, as well as his intimate crafting of characters, remain present here. The result not only stands proudly in Minghella’s filmography but also is one of the most satisfying films of the year.

In “Breaking and Entering”, Minghella collaborates with Jude Law for the third straight time (after "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Cold Mountain", Law's two Oscar-nominated performances). As Will Francis, Law plays an architect attempting to transform contemporary London’s downtrodden King’s Cross neighbourhood (while also becoming wealthy doing it). Despite living with his girlfriend of ten years (Robert Wright Penn) and having raised her behaviourally challenged thirteen year old daughter as if he were her father, the couple has never married. Will is the sort of man who is not necessarily unhappy yet there’s nevertheless something missing in his life; Law conveys this subtle inner tension wonderfully.

Shortly after the film begins, Will’s office building is broken into and computers, layouts and valuable models are stolen. The culprit who actually does the breaking is 15-year old Miro (Rafi Gavron), the only child of Bosnian refugee Amira (Juliette Binoche in her best English language performance since last working with Minghella on “The English Patient”). Amira is convincingly portrayed as being worried sick about her son who she knows very well is up to no good. Yet out of an all too believable combination of loving him and wanting to close her eyes to what is going on, she does not pursue knowledge of what exactly he’s doing.

After Miro is involved in another robbery of the office, Will feels obliged to camp out at night to see what’s happening. This leads to some hilarious encounters with a King’s Cross hooker (Vera Farmiga)…while also putting more strain on Will’s personal life.

Minghella takes his time building up the cast of characters, with 40 minutes elapsing before Will actually discovers the identity of the thief. While the first third of the film could hardly be described as exciting, it certainly is not boring. The viewer is drawn into Minghella’s poignant and honest crafting of the film’s cast and its mood.


After realizing the age of the offender and his mother’s concern for him, Will finds himself unable to turn the boy in, instead trying to discover the state of affairs in another family in difficult times. It’s better not to know specific plot developments from this point on. But the story from here continues to develop and the viewer never feels it is unrealistic or contrived (let’s be frank – most cinematic stories are). Guided by Minghella’s careful hand, themes of indecision and inability to move forward are explored. Nothing excessively awful happens and there are no action scenes or moments of gore. Yet the viewer feels engaged while souls find themselves and the plot gels together in the most honest and realistic of ways. And that’s a great thing to see.

The film would not work without Jude Law, who finally has found the leading role that he’s slipped into flawlessly. In a very understated turn (it would not have worked any other way), Law delivers what is probably the most realistic and honest capturing of a human being this year. He’s given no opportunity to scream, domineer or continually crack jokes yet he manages to carry the film on his back, engaging the audience merely with his tone of voice and the look in his eyes. He builds the sort of character that everyone knows.

The film doesn’t have the captivation of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” or the Lean-esque scoping wonder of “The English Patient”. But it doesn’t have to. It succeeds beautifully on its own terms. See it.


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