By George Bass | 10 February 2009
Who wants to see another bleak dysfunctional drama set in a replica East London studio? Psssh goes the tumbleweed through the box office. But wait a sec; this one’s different. This one isn’t scripted by some water-treading RADA dropout trying to fuel his Marlboro Light habit, and it certainly isn’t acted by his mate from the vocal exercises class. No, Breathe looks set to be a Nil By Mouth (1997) for the noughties, with sometimes-acting cab driver Ricci Harnett stepping up as the vigilant Bailey: a thug returning from years in exile to care for his teenage sister. Troy McClure fans may remember Harnett as “Man Who Dies Via Heinous Optical Trauma” from 28 Days Later (2002) or “Man Who Injects Steroids Into Arse Cheek” from the grisly Rise Of The Footsoldier (2007), but he’s still a relative player, memorable mainly for his Snowy Owl irises and an accent from deep Wapping Stairs. He’s got a coiled cobra presence, though, and it’s earned him TV credits galore, allowing him to collect the fares that normally don’t get tagged for a pilot. Like family dramas set in replica studios, and films from first-time directors (such as this one).
Greg Harwood, the composer on Breathe, is running the same race as the rest of the crew: trying to make ideas spring to life from the lint in one’s own pocket. His cues for the movie have a strange rainlike quality to them, which could easily be bracketed alongside Klaus Badelt’s work on Equilibrium (2002): snippets that frequently peak. As solemn as anything you’d expect from the gunless end of the Hollywood spectrum, he uses weighty chords to personify the man with eternal baggage, giving the main Bailey character a dark spark to bring back to his childhood estate. There’s a ghostly recurring squawk that first surfaces on “Memory Of London”—perhaps an indication of the seagull attacks now that it’s illegal to burn rubbish in the city—and going by the speed in which “Bailey Meets Lynn” segues into “Bailey and Lynn Love Scene,” our boy’s a fast mover. A delicate piano line blossoms just behind the sunny pads, adding to the Western tinges that run through the course of the score. Generally, the work here is light, but interesting enough to know that you could definitely be in store for more than your standard three-act revenger. It’s the perfect set for a night as black as the Northern Line, and as those brave keys tap against classical frost, you can well imagine trashed cars sparkling like Fruit Pastilles under dogged sodium street lamps.
At seventeen tracks across a half hour plus, we get a decent mix on Breathe. “The Final Pieces” is murky melancholy, as foggy and generic as the city that suggested it, with the only criticism being it would be nice to see some pieces develop beyond their three minutes. Just as things go all Warren Ellis on “Loss Sequence,” “Bailey Gets Beaten Up” brings things sharply down into incidental X-Files music. But no matter. All in all, this is a classical but cosmopolitan set of idents, a deliciously dour OST from the pantheon of unreleased film scores. The shivering pianists and brooding strings will keep you rooting for Bailey till the end, where you’re heartily thanked for your time and attention with the liveliest number of the lot: the breaks and acoustic licks of “End Titles,” slowly driving arses from the deluxe seats. Yeah, like they’ll run this one at the IMAX. That the score was composed for less than beans is truly a hell of a feat (especially when you consider the state of the industry, with Warner Brothers axing 10% of its workforce last month), but Harnett, Harwood, and director Nicholas Winter can be proud of their work on Breathe. With names like those, if it doesn’t work out they can always form a solicitor’s. They could even use track five as their strapline: high guitar picks and a thudding bass temperament that come to an eventual head, its title purring through the gloom: “I Told You To Look After Her.”