Breaking and Entering (United Kingdom/United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Perhaps the kindest way to describe Anthony Minghella's Breaking and Entering is to say it's evident as being broken fairly early during the proceedings. There's no shortage of candidates for the fatal flaw: the artificial storyline; the presence of a ridiculously cliched character; the lack of chemistry between illicit lovers. Blaming one of these problems is probably unfair. The movie's failure is likely based on a fusion of all these, and perhaps a few others. Minghella has become known as a director of "chick flicks," primarily because of The English Patient and Cold Mountain. When viewed from a distance, Breaking and Entering would appear to fit into the same category, but there is a stark difference. In his previous efforts, Minghella created believable relationships between interesting characters. The same cannot be said of Breaking and Entering, where the situations are contrived and the key characters don't connect.

Will (Jude Law) is a successful architect who has relocated his business to one of the "bad parts" of London, King's Cross. Because of the dysfunction in his home life, Will spends a lot of hours at work, further isolating himself from his long-time live-in girlfriend, Liv (Robin Wright-Penn), and their 13-year old daughter, Bea (Poppy Rogers). Bea is not Will's biological daughter, but he has been her father-figure for 10 years. She currently has emotional problems - she can't cope with loud noises and suffers from insomnia. Will's solution to this is to avoid home as much as possible. After his business place is broken into twice and his computers are stolen, he camps out in his car at night to catch the thief. He is successful, and follows the boy, Miro (Rafi Gavron), to the home he shares with his mother, Amira (Juliete Binoche). Instead of calling the police or confronting Miro, Will makes the baffling decision to return the next day and engage Amira in conversation. He recognizes that both of them possess deep wellsprings of longing so, as with all movie characters connected thus, they begin an affair. Things become complicated when Amira discovers why Will originally sought her out.

Although the narrative outline would seem to have the potential to develop into a tear-jerker, the lack of chemistry between Binoche and Law creates a barrier. The two actors don't seem to be on the same page. Their sex scenes are passionless and their clothed interaction is no less sterile. Law in particular is frustrating. After starting his career with promise, he has become lazy in his acting. Every character he plays is essentially the same, and he has taken the low-key approach to extremes. Breaking and Entering also makes use of the worn-out cliché of the "hooker with the heart of gold." In this case, she's played by Vera Farmiga. I have no problem with the performance, but the character is so out-of-place and unrealistic that it makes one wonder what Minghella was thinking. Ray Winstone has a few nice scenes as a cop; he should have been in more of the film. All the other actors are okay; no more, no less.

Benoît Delhomme contributes some moody cinematography, but his shot selection further enhances the film's cold, clinical look. While this is a reasonable approach to highlight the distance between Will and his family, it hurts Breaking and Entering's chances of generating something worthwhile between Will and Amira. Without that, the movie has little chance of success, even with those who have been Minghella supporters in the past.

Breaking and Entering (United Kingdom/United States, 2005)

Run Time: 2:00
U.S. Release Date: 2006-12-08
MPAA Rating: "R" (Sexual Situations, Nudity, Profanity)
Genre: DRAMA
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1