Identities 2017: Respire (Breathe)

France 2014
Written by Julien Lambroschini & Mélanie Laurent (based on the novel by Anne-Sophie Brasme)
Directed by Mélanie Laurent
Watched on 15.06.2017

“Respire” was directed by Mélanie Laurent, who is probably better known as an actress than a director. However, judging from her work here – and as much as I enjoy her as a performer – I think I’d prefer it if she’d step behind the camera entirely – since “Respire” is a truly remarkable film which, after a very charming start, gets more and more oppressive with every passing minute, ultimately culminating in an extremely depressing finale, that nevertheless in retrospect seems practically inevitable.

Mélanie Laurent’s direction impressed me twofold. On the one hand, she tells this increasingly dark tale with a couple auf hauntingly beautiful images (with help from her DP Arnaud Potier), and on the other hand, it’s the entire flow of the picture. Laurent manages to increase the tension constantly, until it’s almost unbearable. Thus, from a visual as well as an atmospheric point of view, “Respire” was truly exceptional. She also, apparently, did a great job directing her actresses and actors. I was especially impressed with the two leads, Joséphine Japy (who makes you feel the increasing desperation of her character) and Lou de Laâge (who manages to portray the free spirited, unpredictable whirlwind which is her character with impressive ease). But it’s not just the acting and the direction, the story itself was also great. I have yet to read the novel this movie is based on, but I really liked how “Respire” dealt with the struggles of coming-of-age, be it finding (and keeping) friends, falling in love, and especially bullying at schools. I also loved how the movie never talks down to its audience, is sometimes a little subtle in its approach, and trust the viewer to fill the gaps him- or herself. Finally, as mentioned before, the ending was simply perfection, from the things that are going on to the way the final shot is staged. No one could have done it any better. My only slight complaint is that the middle part, with their vacation, dragged on just a little bit. Other than that, “Respire” is a remarkable piece of work that should be seen by every cinephile out there.


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