Breathe

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Breathe Movie Poster Image
Subtitled teen drama with bullying, alcohol, and sex.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 91 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Use your words instead of your fists. Confused teens, even if they are basically nice, are capable of violence. Kids can be damaged by their imperfect parents. Some people thrive by being cruel to others. Some teens lack the self-esteem to stay away from attractive but toxic friends.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A girl is a compulsive liar. Her mother is an alcoholic. Teens drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes and marijuana. A mother and father keep fighting, breaking up, and getting back together in view of their teenage daughter.

Violence

A girl is seen after she has been slugged in the face by her alcoholic mother. Bullying is seen, both with face-to-face words and through graffiti and harassing phone calls. A girl suffers severe asthma attacks.

Sex

Divorcing parents can be heard in the next bedroom loudly making love. High school kids talk about virginity and having sex. A girl says she tried to have sex in ninth grade but it hurt too much. Two teenage girls sleep in the same bed but don't have sex. An 18-year-old girl tongue-kisses a boy her age. A beach towel momentarily slips to reveal a breast and part of a behind.

Language

"S--t," "f--k," "jerk."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Kids engage in what would be considered underage drinking in the United States. Kids smoke both cigarettes and marijuana. A father offers his 17-year-old daughter a cigarette.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Breathe is a disturbing (subtitled) French 2014 drama about 17-year-olds struggling with and acting out over the weight of their parents' messy lives. One girl's father keeps leaving, and her mother keeps taking the dad back for make-up sex the girl can hear. Another lies to cover up her mother's debilitating alcoholism. She habitually mimics the alternating aggression and sweetness she experiences from her drunk mother, and that leads to painful relationships and, ultimately, tragedy. The high schoolers engage in bullying, smoking cigarettes and marijuana, and also what would be underage drinking in the United States. (Wine and beer are legal for 16-year-olds in France.) Sex is discussed, and kissing is seen. A beach towel momentarily slips to reveal a breast and part of a behind. Profanity includes "s--t" and "f--k."

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What's the story?

In Breathe, a 17-year-old French high schooler named Charlie (Josephine Japy) is a good student and a virgin when she befriends Sarah (Lou de Laage), a self-confident new girl at school whose mother is doing good works in Africa while Sarah lives with an aunt. That is the story Sarah tells, but as her behavior becomes meaner and more erratic, Charlie discovers a sadder truth. The girls become close, and soon the sexually precocious, drinking, smoking Sarah turns against Charlie. She bullies and humiliates the devastated Charlie, who is too hurt to confide in her mother, her friends, the school, or anyone about the cruelty and lies coming from the duplicitous Sarah. When Charlie learns that Sarah, in fact, lives with her mother, an impoverished and violent alcoholic, Charlie forgives Sarah and swears to keep the secret. Sarah, proving herself a sociopath, doesn't accept the forgiveness and mercy but instead attacks again, turning it all around on poor, naïve Charlie. The result is (spoiler alert) a fatal disaster.

Is it any good?

Performances in this well-made film are true and persuasive, and so is the incisive dialogue designed to show how an innocent can be led by her inexperience with evil to stoop to evil herself. A sense of impending doom threads throughout the action. The film seems overlong at times, but perhaps the lyrical pulse is designed to help set up the surprise of the disturbing ending. With lots of mature content, including bullying, sex, and drinking, this subtitled French drama is best for older teens and adults.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what a teenager can do when she is struggling with problematic friends. Might she tell her parents, her friends, her teachers? Why might someone in trouble decide not to seek help?

  • Do you think drinking might make difficult emotional situations worse and more difficult to handle? Why might that be? What are the consequences of drinking?

  • If parents are having trouble themselves, do you think their teenage children would be more or less likely to have problems? Why?

Movie details

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