When there are a couple dozen movies that you’re hoping to see at a given film festival, planning is key. I put a good hour or two into building my tentative schedule for AFI Fest, trying to fit in as much as I could around prior commitments like work. But then there are complications that you cannot plan for. In those moments of disappointment you must allow yourself to move on, lest your frustration fester unchecked forever.
Saturday is a real primo festival day. You have to take advantage of days like this, otherwise you’re wasting your weekend. My heart was certainly in the right place in that regard. I originally planned out five movies today, but in an effort to be more social around my birthday I decided to bail on the midnight movie to go to a fancy pool party. Then, tragedy strikes. Today ends up being the only feasible opportunity to record the new episode of the podcast (Two Guys, a Girl and a PizzaCast, y’all), so I accept the fact that I will have to bail on my third and fourth films of the day as well. Unfortunate, but the first two movies were the ones I really wanted to see anyway.
In order to get prepped for the podcast in time I decided I would walk back to my apartment after the first movie and then drive back up for the second. That way I would be able to go pick up all the supplies and be back for the record. But the gods were against me today because once I got back to Hollywood and Highland, the parking structure was full (though not really, as cars were exiting). As I searched in vain for street parking I tearfully scratched the Blind from my mental schedule. A real disappointment, as Blind was one of my most anticipated films at the festival.
At least I got to see one movie though. Breathe is the second feature film directed by Mélanie Laurent, probably most famous for starring in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. I had no idea that Laurent was also a filmmaker herself, but Breathe (which she also co-wrote based on a novel by Anne-Sophie Brasme) can hardly be denied.
The film is ostensibly a coming-of-age story about a high-school aged girl in France named Charlie (Joséphine Japy) who is perfectly content with her dull life with her less-than remarkable friends. Until, that is, a new girl, Sarah (Lou de Laâge) transfers into Charlie’s class. The two young women become close friends incredibly quickly, with Charlie leaving behind many of her childhood bonds in favor of this new exciting one. The relationship between Charlie and Sarah gets very intense, to the point where grudges form and are held onto with a vicegrip. As the nature of their friendship begins to crumble, both Charlie and Sarah begin behaving in odd ways, lashing out at each other in increasingly harsh ways. It soon becomes a matter of which girl will break first, and just how bad that shattering will be.
For a sophomore effort this is a pretty assured film. The first half is one of the most effective portrayals of youth on film that I have ever seen. And I’m not even French! Laurent perfectly evokes both the exuberance and the drama of being a hormonal teen. Unfortunately Laurent loses a lot of this power as the film focuses more on the fallout of the falling out between Charlie and Sarah. Her characters have depth and are likable, until they aren’t.
This shift towards conflicted characterization is certainly intentional on Laurent’s part, and it doesn’t work against the movie – it just isn’t as engaging as the earlier parts of the feature. It does add some depth to the central friendship, though “friendship” isn’t necessarily the appropriate word. There is an intensity here that verges on sexual. Charlie is reminiscent in some ways of Adèle from Blue Is the Warmest Color, without the concerning exploitation. She is also reminiscent of her own mother, a woman who cannot let go of the disappointments in her life. It remains to be seen whether Charlie can break that cycle.
I chose to let go of my frustrations where my schedule is concerned. There’s nothing I can do about the films that I missed – Blind will most likely receive a release of some kind – so instead I just have to look toward the future. It’s not too late to take full advantage of Sunday.