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Simon Baker in Breath (2017). Courtesy of Red Eye.Courtesy of Red Eye

  • Breath
  • Directed by: Simon Baker
  • Written by: Simon Baker, Tim Winton and Gerard Lee
  • Starring: Samson Coulter and Elizabeth Debicki
  • Classification: 14A; 115 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

If you’ve ever wondered if surfers are afraid of the massive, roaring waves they ride, this Australian coming-of-age film – the feature directorial debut of Simon Baker, star of The Mentalist – gives you the answer: a resounding yes. But it also makes you feel why they love it.

Like life, surfing isn’t exciting until the ride gets a little rough. “Never had I seen men do something so beautiful, so pointless and elegant,” reminisces Pikelet (Samson Coulter) about the first time he – 14, polite, but craving adventure – spies surfers. (The well-written script is by Baker, Gerard Lee and Tim Winton, based on Winton’s novel; Winton also does the grown-up Pikelet’s voiceover narration.)

Soon Pikelet and his wilder pal Loonie (Ben Spence) are learning tricks from a Surf Svengali named Sando (Baker), and lusting after Sando’s fiercely sexy wife Eva (Elizabeth Debicki, always fascinating). But, as with all good coming-of-age stories, what each of them wants from the other isn’t always clear; there’s self-delusion and betrayal and heartbreak.

Baker proves himself a talented director; he manages the rolling rhythms of his waves and his story with skill – especially a montage around Pikelet’s sexual awakening, which is at once funny, steamy and poignant.

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