By Jackie Raphael

4 Stars

First-time feature film director Simon Baker has done a great job of adapting Tim Winton’s award-winning book Breath into a beautiful film that captures the amazing West Australian landscape. It pays homage to the surfing lifestyle and has wonderful cinematography making the audience feel like they are immersed in the waves along with the characters. Baker also produced, co-wrote the screenplay and acted/surfed in the film. Equally as impressive, the two young lead characters were played by surfers, Samson Coulter and Ben Spence, who have no acting experience and did a fantastic job of creating a natural chemistry on screen.

The story is set in mid-1970s Australia and is based on two teenage boys, Pikelet and Loonie, who meet a mysterious older man named Sando (Baker) while they are self-learning to surf. Sando takes them under his wing and they meet his moody wife Eva (Elizabeth Debicki). While the older characters are holding onto their pasts, the younger characters are dreaming of their futures. Baker leaves the plot open ended, which he said at the Perth Q+A screening, was because he had enough of the Hollywood films that always had a bow tied neatly at the end. In typical Australian film style, the movie is slightly slow-paced and Baker could have edited it down a bit. In many ways, the banter and tone reminded me of Stand By Me. While surfers in particular will enjoy it, this film is a coming of age narrative that many will appreciate.