TO HAVE AND HAVE NOTS
Anthony Minghella’s contemporary drama is a wayward but affecting tale of urban alienation, writes Michael Dwyer
EXTREMES of wealth and poverty collide in Breaking and Entering, which is set in present-day London as the King’s Cross area undergoes an urban regeneration scheme. After a trio of high-profile literary adaptations (The English Patient, The Talented Mr Ripley and Cold Mountain), this is Anthony Minghella’s first film from an original screenplay of his own since his 1991 cinema debut with Truly, Madly, Deeply.
Breaking and Entering explores contemporary urban pressures, prejudices and anxieties through a structure that intersects the destinies of disparate characters in a multiracial society, in the manner of Short Cuts, Magnolia, Grand Canyon and Crash. Jude Law plays Will, a landscape architect whose hi-tech new King’s Cross office is burgled several times, bringing him into contact with one of the thieves, a 15-year-old boy (Rafi Gavron) whose aptitude for the freerunning style, parkour, proves an asset in his exploits.
Will unexpectedly finds himself drawn to the boy’s mother, Amira (Juliette Binoche), a widowed Bosnian Muslim refugee and hard-working dressmaker. As he stakes out his own office by night in the hope of catching the robbers, Will befriends a Romanian prostitute (Vera Farmiga from The Departed) who works the King’s Cross beat. His architect colleague (Martin Freeman) falls for one of the company’s cleaning staff, a Kafka-quoting black woman. Investigating the thefts, a socially concerned police officer, oddly named Bruno Fella (Ray Winstone), muses on how much the area is in flux.
In the movie’s least interesting storyline, Will, a workaholic, struggles with working out problems in his strained relationship with his partner, a Swedish-American documentary-maker (wanly played by Robin Wright Penn) who has put her career on hold as she tries to cope with the erratic, demanding personality of her daughter from an earlier relationship.
The title Breaking and Entering is ambiguous, going beyond the theft that sets up the narrative to address issues of property and intrusions into personal lives. “I tidy up,” Will declares at one point, even though his life is getting messier, while Amira symbolically makes a living from mending and repairing.
The movie’s other central character is Lon- don itself, strikingly captured by cinematographer Benoit Delhomme, as it goes through another period of change. The film suffers from a few coincidences too many – one chance encounter, in particular, seems entire- ly superfluous – and some strands are more satisfactorily developed and resolved then others. Yet it remains absorbing and well observed, and, not for the first time, the luminous Binoche is outstanding.