Breathing (15)

Dir: Karl Markovics

Stars: Thomas Schubert, Karin Lischka and Georg Friedrich

A surprisingly high number of respected actors go on to be excellent directors and producers: Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood instantly spring to mind. These days, more top actors seem to be moving behind the camera at a relatively young age, with Angelina Jolie, George Clooney and Drew Barrymore all taking the plunge recently. Karl Markovics, best known for his role in The Counterfeiters, directoral debut is an impressive addition to this esteemed club.

Breathing follows Roman (Schubert), a 19 year old in a juvenile detention centre who is struggling to deal with the guilt of his crime whilst trying to fashion a future for himself. After yet another failed attempt to hold down a job, Roman decides to take a position as a municipal mortuary attendant; desperately needing to hold a job down before his next parole hearing. He has to contend with the negative attitudes of his new work colleagues, deal with his abandonment by his mother (Lischka) and come to terms with the crime he committed.

Whether Breathing works or not mainly hinges on the performance of Thomas Schubert, and for an actor in his debut film role, he is superb. It would have been easy for playing a character in Roman’s position to overact, but his performance is pitch-perfect. The same can be said for Markoics. It would be easy for a writer/director to fall unto the trap of over-reaching or trying too much in their first film, but has a clear vision and sticks to it; managing to coax impressive performances from all the cast.

Given the subject matter, Breathing could easily have been a very difficult and gruelling film to watch. However, with a light smattering of dark humour and a refusal to ever descent into the maudlin, it works brilliantly. The revelations towards the end of the film really do pack one hell of a punch. Both Markovic and Schubert look to have bright futures ahead of them.

Out now at the Showroom Cinema http://www.showroomworkstation.org.uk/breathing