Jan 8, 2019
Welcome back to another Takeover Tuesday. Or it would be, if there’s a brave soul out there willing to write and record a review for this very podcast. Head on over to onemoviepunch.com/takeover-tuesday for more information, then reach out to us either on the website or over social media. We would love to have you on the podcast.
In lieu of a guest review this week, we’ll be taking a look at another Netflix Original, this time an Icelandic drama involving asylum seekers. For a few other films and documentaries about asylum seekers, check out “Fire at Sea” (Episode #151), “Human Flow” (Episode #074), and “A Ciambra” (Episode #241).
Also, how about those Golden Globes? We’ve reposted our reviews for the winners, and next week, we’ll have a few new reviews for some winners and nominees, along with Sunday’s throwback episode for “Bohemian Rhapsody”. We’ll be linking to reviews from our partners and correspondents. If you want your review included, reach out to us over social media.
Today’s movie is “And Breathe Normally” (2018), the Netflix Original Icelandic drama written and directed by Isolde Uggadottir. The film follows Lára (Kristín þóra Haraldsdôttir), an Icelandic single mother, whose path intersects with and directly affects Adja (Babetida Sadjo), an asylum seeker from Guinea-Bisseau attempting to fly through to Toronto. Over time, the two come to rely on one another, as Adja’s asylum claim is evaluated. Apologies for any and all mispronunciations.
As a former labor and political organizer, when I think of the term solidarity, I envision workers coming together for a common purpose, usually a fair contract or the remediation of grievances. We see a lot of solidarity in the streets now, everything from the yellow vests in Europe to the multiple marches against fascism in the United States. Labor solidarity, citizen solidarity, national solidarity... we find common cause in many ways. But there’s a much older, deeper solidarity that exists within society, as old as patriarchy, and that’s solidarity among women. I can’t speak to that experience, obviously, as someone who identifies male, but I do listen to and believe women when they talk about their experiences, especially when dealing with men. I may not be able to intrinsically understand a women’s experience, but I certainly understand men, especially the toxic masculinity that seems to be everywhere, and a mere glance at any part of recorded history will back that up. I also pay attention to films like “And Breathe Normally”, which bring not just a female perspective to single parenthood and asylum seekers, but also explore that deeper solidarity among women.
PS: If you want to hear me rant more about toxic masculinity, be sure to check out tomorrow’s review for “El Potro: Unstoppable” (Episode #374).
Uggadottir’s debut feature-length film is a tale about solidarity, but also about identity, whether that’s the identity we give ourselves, or the identity imposed on us by others. The film begins with notions of identity, introducing Lára and Adja from their separate worlds, emphasizing their differences, while also demonstrating the social and power relationships between them. Lára flagging Adja’s passport leads to Adja’s detention in Iceland. Of course, the Icelandic system for processing asylum seekers is far more humane than the United States, allowing free movement while their claims are being processed, and even providing temporary residences. The perfect conditions for having their lives intersect, and not unlike many stories and films about colliding worlds, creates the space to find their important, and arguably more fundamental, similarities. It may be a familiar story in some ways, but it becomes a distinct and substantive story with Uggadottir.
Haraldsdóttir and Sadjo really work well together on screen, each showing a great deal of emotional growth in their performances. They really capture that sense of female solidarity, despite their initial and understandable distrust of one another. Patrik Nükkvi Pétursson also gives a great, if limited performance as Eldar, Lára’s son, with an especially funny dialogue with Adja. Overall, the film has nice progression, with good use of montages to tell a lot of story in a small amount of time. The sets capture the stark countryside and weather of Iceland, and the costumes all work well for the film. I did find some scenes to feel a little empty, as if I wasn’t sure what emotion to fill it with, but never in a way that made me disengage, especially as the film heads towards its somewhat predictable, although wholly satisfying ending.
“And Breathe Normally” (2018) is a tale about identity and solidarity, and in particular, the solidarity among struggling women, especially when society fails to support them. Uggadottir’s debut may tell a story with a familiar premise, but it is a well told story, simultaneously shining a light on asylum seekers and single motherhood as well. Drama fans, or fans of films about female solidarity, should definitely check out this film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
One Movie Punch: 8.0/10
“And Breathe Normally” (2018) is rated TV-14 and is currently streaming on Netflix.