TO HAVE AND HAVE NOTS

An­thony Minghella’s con­tem­po­rary drama is a way­ward but af­fect­ing tale of ur­ban alien­ation, writes Michael Dwyer

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - REVIEWS FILM -

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.

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