By: Addison Wylie
Last September, TIFF featured a Canadian indie named Wet Bum. It sold itself to audiences as an innocent coming-of-age tale about a meek high schooler who finds guidance in her relationships with the elderly. A lot of movie goers ate it up, and found Wet Bum to be endearing.
While it’s momentarily touching, I found Lindsay MacKay’s indie had too many precious quirks. Those developed the film into something far less original and ultimately unmemorable.
Two months later, Lance Daly’s Life’s a Breeze rolls into my critic queue and it helps me remember how one of these quaint indies can take flight with ingenuity. Daly provides that extra kick-in-the-pants these micro productions need to leave an imprint on the moviegoing public. Since Life’s a Breeze originates from Ireland, you may as well claim Daly has the luck of the Irish.
Life’s a Breeze is from the same cut as other delightful flicks like Waking Ned Devine and The Full Monty. A humbling family are all down on their luck despite trying to keep their spirits high. The youngest Emma (played by divine newcomer Kelly Thornton) watches the poverty from the bleachers as some of the hardship and time restrictions rolls her way. For instance, instead of taking sandwiches for lunch at school, Emma is given bread and the fixings to eat simultaneously. We watch her quiet embarrassment as she sneakily eats her halfhearted meal in a crowded cafeteria.
Although its effective, Daly (who also wrote the screenplay) probably could’ve reeled back on how poor the family is. A run-in at a welfare office between three siblings waiting in line for their money is a scene where Daly layers the misfortune on a little too thick. However, the screenwriter doesn’t colour outside the lines too often and he never breaks the realism.
The family is held together by their hushed Nan (played by Fionnula Flanagan). In an action reflecting their gratitude, the siblings stage an impromptu flip to replace all of Nan’s old furniture and appliances with new products. Nan is too shocked to care when the surprise is revealed. Her rugged mattress carried an important treasure that she had been saving, and now, everyone must find a way to retrieve the haggard item.
Life’s a Breeze has a small town mentality that effortlessly rubs off on the audience. Everyone in their Dublin community is close and honest, which gains Daly’s movie a coziness that’s hard to turn down.
The noteworthy performances help keep the pleasurable indie afloat as well. Besides the charming turns by Thornton and Flanagan, Pat Shortt is particularly captivating as Colm. Colm means well, but his good deeds turn him into a befuddling loon. He’s hilarious when he doesn’t mean to be, and gentle by accident. Shortt is well aware of this balance, and knows how to play the character without having the audience enjoy Colm for mean-spirited reasons.
Life’s a Breeze is a pure delight. Mind the pun, but it’s actually a breeze. Clocking in at barely an hour and twenty minutes, Daly’s indie flies by and every scene is critical to the story.
Speaking of being critical, the MPAA is unintentionally trying to persuade wider audiences from seeing Life’s a Breeze. The film is rated R for language, yet its one-too-many instances of the f-word are used in non-sexual ways and only add to the film’s culture. Canada’s ratings board is more lenient by issuing a 14A, but Life’s a Breeze would easily be open to all audiences in its original country.
If you want to introduce your kid to a different kind of crowd pleaser and you’re comfortable with your child hearing a few f-bombs and seeing a very tame striptease by a “police officer”, have at it.