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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that And Breathe Normally is an Icelandic film with subtitled native dialogue and some English. Poverty, homelessness, the plight of the immigrant, lesbianism, and drug use are all threads in the fabric of the understated but elegantly-drawn story. In a gloomy winter setting, two desperate women, both single mothers, form an unusual friendship as they try to survive in a society that can be uncaring and cold. Quiet, realistic, and often disturbing, the women's welfare, as well as the well-being of the young son of one of them, is at risk. The film is suspenseful, but except for a reference to a woman having been beaten to death, isn't violent. The word "f--k" is heard twice. Reference to one character's past drug use. She's tempted to use again. Two women, in underwear, kiss and begin to make love in one scene. The film has the potential to promote thoughtful family conversation about relevant issues. For mature teens only.
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What's the story?
Lara (Kristin Thora Haraldsdottir) is the single mom to Eldar (Patrik Nokkvi Petursson) in modern-day Rekjaynes, Iceland in AND BREATHE NORMALLY. Without money, a job, and fearfully avoiding social service scrutiny, Lara is unable to keep the family afloat. Even acceptance into the training program for Iceland's Border Security force won't help their immediate crisis. Lara and Eldar become homeless. At work Lara notices an inconsistency in a female traveler's passport. Adja (Babetida Sadjo), fleeing from Guinea-Bissau on her way to Canada, is arrested as Lara looks on. Knowing that her careful inspection is a boost for her performance appraisal, Lara can't help but be affected by the African woman's distraught demeanor. When Lara and Adja unexpectedly meet again, both women are struggling to persevere. It soon becomes clear that their relationship, though initially random, will have a profound impact on the story's outcome.
Is it any good?
Stunning performances from three remarkable actors (including a child), a realistic approach to its subject matter, and restrained but profound political implications make this movie unforgettable. Writer-director Isold Uggadottir, in her first feature, reveals a unique ability to let the story and characters reveal themselves in small, significant scenes over the course of the film. And Breathe Normally is as unpredictable as it is moving. And yet, even the surprising occurrences are the result of carefully-constructed moments that give weight and honesty to the outcomes. Finally, given the tenor of today's prevailing issues, Iceland stands in for any number of places in the Western world.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's resolution. Do you think Lara's action was justified? Moral? What other options did she -- and Adja -- have? Are there ever circumstances in which legality and doing the right thing may not be the same?
How does the filmmaker use the visual setting to contribute to the overall feeling of And Breathe Normally? The weather? The landscapes? The colors and lighting? Would the movie have been as effective if it had taken place in a different season or place?
As opposed to superheroes and flawless protagonists, heroic characters are sometimes imperfect. In what ways was Lara imperfect? How did she earn your admiration? Are heroic characters who make mistakes and have weaknesses more interesting than faultless ones? Why or why not?
- On DVD or streaming: January 4, 2019
- Cast: Kristin Thora Haraldsdottir, Babetida Sadjo, Patrik Nokkvi Petursson
- Director: Isold Uggadottir
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage, Empathy, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
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