Brecking and Entering (15)

ANDREW CLARKE Britain's leading contemporary director, Anthony Minghella, returns from his David Lean-like period epics to a small-scale contemporary drama set in present-day London.


Britain's leading contemporary director, Anthony Minghella, returns from his David Lean-like period epics to a small-scale contemporary drama set in present-day London - Kings Cross to be exact.

It's a look at modern-day relationships, bringing up children and the age-old problem of the work/life balance. Jude Law plays Will Francis an up-and-coming young architect, who, with business partner Sandy, played by Martin Freeman from The Office, are looking to transform the semi-derelict Kings Cross into an urban paradise.

They move into new offices, a converted warehouse, as a show of faith and immediately are struck by a series of expensive and debilitating computer robberies.

The cleaning staff are the first to come under suspicion, but it quickly becomes clear that the robberies are the work of a gang of East Europeans who use a couple of gymnastic lads to leap across the rooftops to gain entry to the building through a skylight.

Laid low by this series of thefts, Will's personal life is not made any easier by his long-term Swedish girlfriend (Robin Wright Penn) becoming increasingly distant because her daughter, his step-daughter, appears to becoming increasingly autistic and suffers from chronic insomnia which is gradually driving a barrier between them.

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Tired of the repeated break-ins Will and Sandy start staking out their own offices and eventually Will spots a nimble young burglar (Gavron) scaling along the upper stories of his building. He shouts out and gives chase, eventually tracking the 15 year old thief to his home where his mother Amira (Binoche), a Bosnian refugee, barely makes ends meet working as a tailor.

Feeling emotionally locked out of his home life, something about Amira's fragile beauty and goodness, sparks something inside him and he engineers a way for a relationship to develop while keeping from her the fact that her son is a sneak thief.

It's a story which has plenty of twists and turns to keep your interest, but it is the characters that really capture your imagination. You become part of their lives - you want to know more about them, you want to know about their past and although elements of the plot have an air of soap opera about them, Minghella obviously realises this and sensibly pulls back from the edge of melodrama, keeping the plot in the real world.

This is the best film that Jude Law has been in since Closer - another film about marital infidelity. His is a complex character - he is a driven man, completely in love with his work, and yet there is still time in his busy schedule for his girlfriend and his obviously distressed step-daughter - if only he was allowed anywhere near them.

Martin Freeman is showing himself to be a very fine actor while Juliette Binoche is just luminous in what could have been a very low-key, fairly underwritten part.

Robin Wright Penn shines in the most unforgiving part in the film, the, at times, shrewish girlfriend who is desperately trying to comfort and support her disturbed daughter, hoping that she doesn't push a wedge between her and Will and yet in the end she is the one who does just that.

Ray Winstone wrings a few changes to his hard man character by playing the sympathetic detective investigating the computer thefts and the young Rifi Gavron gives a touching performance as Binoche's impressionable but not blameless son who carries out the robberies for an East European gang.

The great thing about Breaking and Entering is that it is not a black and white story of right or wrong, good and evil, rich versus poor. It is a sober look at all these issues and more set against a contemporary London which is constantly in a state of flux. Excellent.