' Cinema Romantico: Life's A Breeze

Monday, March 16, 2015

Life's A Breeze

“Life’s A Breeze” revolves around a box spring turned security deposit box, a mattress that aging matriarch Nan (Fionnula Flanagan) has apparently stuffed full of one million in euros only to learn in horror that her sons and daughters have thrown it away to surprise her with a brand new bed. Considering the majority of her offspring are unemployed or suffering from some kind of financial stumbling block, this leads to a frantic search for the misplaced fortune without benefit of a treasure map, a whole family combing the Dublin landfills in desperation. What emerges, however, is less a financial fable than a low-key fairy tale in which Nan is made to realize her legacy rests not with her own children but with her granddaughter.


This is one of those Big Family movies, the ones where everyone can’t quite stand each other yet can’t seem to not spend time in each other’s company. Director Lance Daly, who also did the cinematography, repeatedly fills the frames with a multitude of characters, eliciting the air of always being unable to escape the presence of your loved ones. No one has room to indulge their own thoughts which marks them as one unintentionally united victim of group think. When Mom tells them of her hidden nest egg, they altogether scoff. When evidence begins to suggest otherwise, they altogether decide she must be telling the truth. When some straggler claims to have unearthed a mattress but that it bears only a measly six hundred bucks, they altogether figure Mom is loopy. Then they all decide she needs to go to a home.

The only one who seems oblivious to the unrelenting noise and closeness is Emma (Kelly Thornton), the daughter of Colm (Pat Shortt), the son who still lives under mom’s roof. While Daly favors group shots for most of the family, he chooses frames for Emma that underscore her solitude. It’s not just when she’s riding the bus with only her earbuds for accompaniment but at the lunch table where she is surrounded by her peers, none of whom are her friends, isolated, left to fold up her single slice of bread like a faux sandwich and eat with only her thoughts for conversation. It might be the first time that Thornton has acted but she effectively conveys that desire to go away when someone’s always there.

It’s why she bristles when she’s tasked with checking in on Nan while the grown-ups scheme and cajole. Eventually, obligatorily, however, Emma and Nan become friendly, so much that Grandma enlists Granddaughter to keep looking for the missing mattress even after all her kids have declared it a lost cause. And even if this whole Irish scavenger hunt is resolved via a fairly glaring coincidence, well, it hardly matters because the scavenger hunt, as is so often the case in films like this, is simply the means to an end. Oh, the money still means a lot to the squabbling children but we realize by the time the end credits roll that, money or no money, they will go on squabbling, forever and ever.

Nan is not disappointed in her kids, per se, but she also clearly doesn’t want her granddaughter turning into them. She wants her to think for herself, and she employs this money-seeking adventure as the device to elicit just such an awakening. That’s why the last shot is perfect. Emma steps outside and into the silence.

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