Dysfunctional families define the bulk of indie movies.They are usually dysfunctional and outrageous, but there is some charm or redeeming factor that the viewer could relate to. I found none of that in Life’s A Breeze.
This was a movie of an old woman fully realizing that her full-grown children are just horrible, fickle people. Only her granddaughter has any hope of becoming a decent human being. Considering her eagerness in flipping the bird to her uncle or insulting him, it’s only a flicker of hope.
Nan (played by Fionnula Flanagan)is an elderly woman living with one her grown up children, Colm (played by Pat Shortt). She lives a quiet and routine life in the house. Her house is full of stuff dating decades and decades ago. Her entertainment is knitting and listening to the radio. She has five children, only one of them is successful in her career.
The siblings are horrible. There were glimpses of camaraderie but then they would revert back to their selfish ways. All the siblings take advantage of the successful even as they wait in line at the unemployment office. Only one time is able to hold a part time job, the others have given up looking. Of all the children, Colm is the worst. It’s not the still living with his elderly mother that is bad, it’s everything about him. He’s lazy, childish, dumb, manipulative, and a sneak.
For some unknown reason, Colm decides to help out his Nan.Colm bribes the granddaughter, Emma (played by Kelly Thornton), to take Nan out. The rest of the family cleans out the house, installs senior-friendly fixtures, and gift her with updated appliances. It would have been really sweet if they hadn’t tossed out the mattress. That mattress contained all of Nan’s savings; about 1 million Euros.
The movie is spent looking for the lost money. Colm seemed to have redeemed himself during this time since he puts all this effort and energy into finding the mattress. As the search takes a sad turn, he shows his disappointment at not spending all that money. So do the rest of the family. They go from giving Nan a wonderful (and uncomfortable with the addition of the fireman stripper) birthday to dismissing her as senile when the truths begin to surface. This family sucks. Mean-spirited and fickle creatures.
There were two scenes that took me out of the movie entirely.One scene was during an emotional discussion between Nan and her granddaughter. They are both talking about reincarnation and life. A very deep conversation being given in the dump yard in front of a pile of trash swarmed by seagulls. There had to be a smell. They were in a dump yard. It’s akin to having a serious conversation in front of a dumpster. Was that supposed to imply that the idea of reincarnation was crap? Or was it a dark joke of talking about life on a trash heap?
The second scene made question the critical thinking of Emma. After spying the mattress from the bus, she follows it to an abandoned structure. She walks into the structure alone. A 13-year old girl just decides to walk into an abandoned structure all by herself. As she tiptoes around, there are people sleeping on mattresses around her. This is the set up for a horror movie. There could have been a gang that could have hurt her. She could have fell. Throughout the movie, she doesn’t have a cell phone. She even waits till it gets dark to get the mattress! All of this just stunned and terrified me. I believe there was a metaphor somewhere but I just kept wanting her somewhere else, mentally praying that this wasn’t going to take a dark turn.
Out of the whole thing, what really made me annoyed was that Emma gave Colm the credit for finding the mattress. Nope. Whatever happy feeling this was supposed to imbue upon me only inflamed me. Colm deserved no recognition whatsoever. He was an a$$hat in the beginning and the same till the end. He’s already deciding what to do with the money his mother had saved up for fifty years.
The parts that were worth watching were the interactions between Nan and Emma. The chemistry between the two actresses were solid and authentic. It was endearing when the dialogue almost became a code between them. Kelly Thornton did earn the Bingham Ray New Talent Award. I have a feeling we may seem more of this actress in the future.
I was too annoyed to read too deep into this movie. If the intention of the creators were to elicit these emotions, then goal was met. The only other positive intent to this movie was for the viewer to appreciate their own family or reevaluate your priorities. I did not relate or sympathize with any of the characters. The story highlighted their flaws and shortcomings. This was touted as “feel good, recession-comedy” and it did not met any of that in my mind.
This movie has received some great reviews and appreciation from various outlets. I would love to share and revel in the enthusiasm but this movie did not hit the mark for me at all. The audience members that seemed to enjoy it were the senior citizens. I would suggest you take along your elderly relative to watch this movie. It would be a win for either party: your elderly relative may relate and you may gain some brownie points for being way more awesome than this family.
Life’s A Breeze is distributed by Wildcard Distribution. It is available on Netflix and will be distributed to the US on September 19.