Breath is an adaptation of Australian author Tim Winton’s novel of the same name. It’s a nostalgic coming-of-age story set in Australia in the late 1970s. Bruce ‘Pikelet’ Pike (Samson Coulter) is nearly 14 when he and his best mate Ivan ‘Loonie’ Loon (Ben Spence) are seduced by the adventure, risk and mystique of surfing. Against a stunning backdrop of the Western Australian coast line, the two young boys start to explore surf culture, scrimping and saving for their first boards, hitching rides on the back of utes to catch waves, and teaching themselves to ride surfboards.
One day, seasoned surf pro ‘Sando’ (Simon Baker) offers them a lift back from the beach. He tells the boys that they can leave their boards at his property so they don’t have to carry the boards on their bikes. The relationship between Sando, the two boys and Sando’s American wife, Eva (Elizabeth Debicki), deepens over time. Sando fosters the boys’ love of surfing and encourages them to take more and more risks. Pikelet narrates the story, and through his eyes we see the complexity of handling life, dealing with fear, and navigating adult relationships and responsibility.
Here we outline any topics, issues and ideas in this movie that might upset children and adolescents, so that you can gauge whether it is appropriate for your child. For example, children and adolescents may react adversely to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, separation from a parent, animal cruelty or distress, children as victims, natural disasters and racism.
Boyhood and adolescence; risk and danger; coercive and abusive sexual relationships; family violence
Here we identify any violence in this movie, and explain how and why it might impact on your child or adolescent. In general, movie violence can make children less sensitive to the use of violence in real life. Alternatively, they may become fearful about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world. In some contexts, it can also teach them to see violence as an acceptable means of conflict resolution.
Breath has some violence. For example:
- Loonie is a victim of family violence. There are no explicit scenes of violence, but it’s implied that Loonie’s father gave Loonie a black eye on one occasion and a broken arm on another.
- There’s a sex scene that involves asphyxiation for pleasure. An underage boy is coerced into performing the act by an adult woman.
- A dead body floats in water. It’s implied the person is the victim of a drug-related shooting.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Breath has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:
- There are scenes showing treacherous and dangerous waves.
- Loonie holds onto the back of a ute while riding his bike. He starts going so fast that he thinks he might have an accident.
- Loonie likes to stand in the middle of the highway when a truck is coming and play ‘chicken’. This involves seeing how long he can stand there before running away from the truck.
- A scene shows the aftermath of a collision between a car and a cattle truck. Pikelet rushes in to rescue people from the wreckage. One of the cattle is shot to end its pain.
The scenes mentioned above are likely to disturb children in this age group. Children in this age group are also likely to be confused by the sex scenes between an adult woman and a young boy. The complexity of this relationship is likely to be difficult to explain to children.
Children in this age group are likely to be confused by the sex scenes between an adult woman and a young boy. The complexity of this relationship is likely to be difficult to explain to children.
Younger teenagers might be disturbed or confused by the scenes mentioned above.
Breath has some sexual references. For example:
- Pikelet and a girl at school flirt and have some romantic moments. They hold hands and she touches his leg under the table.
- Pikelet tries to see up a woman’s skirt as she lies sleeping. She wakes up and catches him.
- Loonie talks about a girl finding a ‘flawlessly well-formed Johnson’ in his pocket.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Breath shows some use of substances. For example:
- Eva smokes marijuana from a bong and also a rolled joint.
- Loonie comes back from travelling overseas and shows Pikelet that he has brought back some marijuana.
Nudity and sexual activity
Breath has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- Eva seduces Pikelet into a sexual relationship, and there are several naked sex scenes between them. In two of the sex scenes Eva coerces Pikelet to let her asphyxiate herself with a plastic bag and a belt while they make love. He tells her clearly that he doesn’t like it, but she uses emotional blackmail to convince him to do it again. This is extremely distressing for Pikelet.
- There is a sex scene between Eva and Sando.
Nothing of concern
Breath has frequent coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Breath is a poignant and poetic portrayal of the journey from boyhood into manhood. It’s also a great surf movie. The incredibly beautiful cinematic shots of the ocean and the swelling waves are an allegory for the inevitable, terrifying leap into adulthood. The movie deals subtly with themes of masculinity, risk and fear. Young men in particular might find this movie empowering.
Although the movie at times feels targeted towards younger teenagers, the abusive sexual relationship between Eva and Pikelet, and the consequences that arise, might be too confronting for or possibly misunderstood by less mature teenagers. It’s a good idea to think carefully about the suitability of this content before allowing your children to see the movie.
The main message from this movie is that saying ‘no’ to situations that are too risky, unsafe or uncomfortable does not make you a lesser, weaker ‘man’ or person. You can learn to overcome your fears and take risks, but there’s also strength in learning when to say no.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:
- setting boundaries about what’s comfortable and feels safe
- learning to overcome panic and fear
- protecting yourself from abusive relationships
- standing up for yourself.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like:
- safe sex and consequences of not using protection
- sexual predators and sex with underage children
- illicit drug use and the consequences
- excessive and destructive risk-taking
- family violence.