Breaking and Entering (2007) dir. Anthony Minghella
Starring: Jude Law, Robin Wright Penn, Juliette Binoche
“Breaking and Entering” is a film that seems to try hard not satisfy its audience. It’s a little bit of a heist film, part erotic thriller, part domestic drama, there’s even some chase sequences in there. The film tries not to pigeon-hole itself into one film, but tests the waters of all genres. As a result, it fails.
Jude Law plays a well-off architect (Will) who has recently moved his firm to the soon-to-be gentrified King’s Cross neighbourhood of London – perhaps the equivalent of Parkdale in Toronto. His grand plan is to build a new architectural design – part art, part commerce. He has a wife, Liv (Robin Wright Penn) and a daughter (Bea) with autism. The demands of his job and the stress of his daughter’s disability are taking its toll on their marriage.
After several break-ins Jude stakes out his own office attempting to catch the thief first hand. During the stake out he befriends a prostitute whom he only converses with, but is clearly enjoys the companionship. He discovers the thief (a Bosnian immigrant, Miro) and chases him through-out the neighbourhood. Miro is like an acrobat and nimbly leaps over fences, over buildings and up stairs, thus eluding him. But Will eventually finds where he lives, only to discover his mother is an attractive woman Amira (Juliette Binoche) whom he met the day before at the park. Instead of turning him in, he secretly makes friends with Amira, and in turn develops an attraction to her. Their relationship soon blossoms into an affair.
By not telling Amira of his initial intentions, Will is in a way cheating on both his lover and his wife. Of course, the secrets get out and Will is forced to make life-choices which affects all of the people he seems to love – his wife, daughter, mistress, Miro, his job etc. Somehow, he manages to reconcile all his problems. The scene at the end of the movie is horribly rushed and contrived, and seems like something out of a TV drama, or an episode of “Diff’rent Strokes.”
Minghella (also the writer) never punishes Jude Law’s character for his behaviour. His wife’s reaction to everything that has gone on is ridiculously implausible. But perhaps that was Minghella’s intention, to play her character against type – either way, it doesn’t work. By the end we ask ourselves, how has Will changed?
Many dramatic beats are set up but do not payoff, just teasing us perhaps into thinking the film will actually go anywhere, that the stakes might escalate into dramatic jeopardy. For example, the prostitute never returns in the second half of the film, Amira’s incriminating photos of Will never emerge as a threat, Will’s daughter’s accident becomes a false alarm.
The most exciting moments of the film are the acrobatic maneuvers of Miro and his thieving friends during the heist sequences. But, we’ve also seen those moves in “Casino Royale,” “District B13,” and countless martial arts films.
I respect all Anthony Minghella’s films, including “Cold Mountain”. He’s a natural filmmaker with panache for visually expressing characters’ deep, inner desires and anxieties. Will Francis is not without his anxieties and desires, but without dramatic jeopardy, he’s just having his cake and eating it too.