Courtesy: Magnolia Pictures/Magnolia Home Entertainment
Money, it’s often said, is the root of all evil. However, the reality is that it is not money but the want of money that is the source of all evil. It is that want of money that drives man to do bad things. Those bad things include putting their own well-being over that of their own friends and family. And that message is at the core of Life’s A Breeze, the new dramedy from indie studio Magnolia Home Entertainment. It’s also a message that is presented without being preachy. For that reason alone, it makes Life’s A Breeze well worth the watch. The story behind which that message rests is just as important to the movie’s success. It centers on a group of adult children who start out just trying to help their elderly mother. But in learning of the mattress and the alleged fortune stashed within, things change very quickly. The end result reveals a message just as deep as the central message of human greed. That secondary message is one of how the elderly are viewed and treated by younger adults and even young people. Both of those messages coupled with the movie’s story make for plenty of reason for audiences to check out Life’s A Breeze now that it’s available on DVD and Blu-ray. While each element proves its importance in its own way, there is still one remaining element worth noting to the movie’s benefit. That element is the work of the movie’s cast. Being an import from Ireland, American audiences won’t recognize any of the cast in this movie. But that’s beside the point. That’s because every member of the cast is equally entertaining. Pat Shortt’s portrayal of the dopey, somewhat scheming Colm, young Kelly Thornton’s presentation of Emma, and Fionnula Flanagan’s take on the family’s underappreciated matriarch Nan are all spot on. The rest of the cast is just as entertaining in its supporting roles. The cast’s acting is so surprisingly entertaining that it makes suspension of disbelief quite easy. That ability of audiences to so easily suspend their disbelief leads to even easier grasp of the movie’s central story and its messages. Those whose minds are open enough will find themselves appreciating all of these elements together and agreeing that while not necessarily the “Feel-good film” that the Irish Times claimed it to be, it is still a movie that is as deep as it is funny and touching. That being the case, it proves to be yet another independent release that is just as worth the watch as anything churned out by Hollywood’s Power Five studios.
Hollywood in its current era has become increasingly a wasteland over the course of the past two decades or more thanks to the fact that those at the heads of the major studios have become afraid to take chances and back anything original and creative. Even the audiences that one supported Hollywood’s endless river of prequels, sequels, and remakes are becoming increasingly vocal against this practice. They are starting to chomp at the bit for something with real substance that doesn’t require involvement in more than one movie. They want the mainstream movie world to step out and take those chances again. Where Hollywood has struggled to offer anything along those lines, smaller, independent companies such as Magnolia Home Entertainment have picked up the slack and given those audiences exactly what they want and need. The most recent example of this comes from its new Irish import Life’s A Breeze. Its message about the emphasis that we as people put on money versus that of our own loved ones lies at the center of the movie’s enjoyment. Thanks to the efforts of the movie’s writer/director Lance Daly, that message is presented without being overly preachy. Its rather serious nature is balanced with just enough moments of comic relief to keep it from overpowering audiences while still remaining at the story’s forefront. The message itself is presented through the movie’s story, which sees a group of adult children hunting for a missing matress that belongs to their mother. The mattress in question allegedly has almost a million Euros, which is equal to a little more than a million dollars American currency. It isn’t until their mother tells them about the mattress that they even start to care. Even then, they care more about the money for themselves than for her. It’s such a sad, telling and true statement that transcends nations. And because of its ability to reach so many different audiences, the story proves itself to be another of the movie’s most important positives.
The central message of man’s greed that lies within Life’s A Breeze is itself plenty of reason for audiences to check out this surprisingly worthwhile watch. There is no preachy nature involved in the message’s delivery. It is delivered with class thanks to the Daly’s work. Its value to the movie in whole can’t be denied. And neither can the value of the story itself. The story that is used to deliver the movie’s message is just as important to the whole. The story is centered on a group of adult children who are cleaning up the home of their mother Nan (Fionnula Flanagan–The Others, Yes Man, Four Brothers), which is something almost akin to that of a hoarder. In the process, Nan’s childre end up throwing out her mattress, which she alleges contained close to a million Euros. That is, on the current market, a little less than a million dollars in U.S. currency. The problem is that they are not trying to find the money for her. Rather, they want it for themselves. When the people of the city are called upon by Colm to help, they prove even more the emphasis put on money over others. The only person that treats Nan with any real civility and humanity through it all is her grand-daughter Emma (Kelly Thornton–Clean Break, Love/Hate). The bond that grows between Nan and Emma throughout the course of the movie will bring audiences both to laughter and tears. And speaking of Emma, her final scene, which also closes the movie, will move audiences just as much. Itdrives home once and for all the message of human greed and how we as people should value who and what we have. Most amazing of all is the fact that this is done all within two short shots. Those shots won’t be given away here for the sake of those that haven’t yet seen the movie. But alongside the rest of the movie, they make for a powerful close to a movie that more than proves itself just as enjoyable as any big name blockbuster.
There are a lot of deep, thought-provoking moments throughout the course of Life’s A Breeze. For all of those moments that are shared, there are plenty of laughs along the way, too. They come courtesy of Colm’s (Pat Shortt–Calvary, The Guard, Rory O’Shea) buffoonery in his hunt. One of his best moments comes when he thinks that Nan has won the nation’s lottery. This is another moment that won’t be given away. But it involves shaving cream and his fellow grown-up siblings. There is another moment when Colm has to chase down a bunch of kids who have stolen Nan’s wheeled shed so as to burn it in a bonfire. He is essentially accused by one mother of being a pedophile when he confronts one of the kids. It’s one more of so many great moments provided by Shortt that will leave audiences laughing. Those moments collectively set against the movie’s more in-depth, emotional moments make the movie’s story that much more enjoyable and prove why the story is just as important to the enjoyment of the whole as its central message.
The pairing of the story behind Life’s A Breeze and the delivery of its message of human greed makes this independent dramedy a work that is just as worth the watch as any of its counterparts released by Hollywood’s major studios. In fact, it could be argued to be even better than those movies as it doesn’t try to dumb itself down, unlike those movies. It still offers its own share of laughs and deeper moments for a presentation that any true movie lover should see at least once. While the work put into Life’s a Breeze in terms of its script and its central message both play their own pivotal roles in the movie’s enjoyment, one would be remiss to ignore the work of the movie’s cast. It’s already been noted that lead star Pat Shortt is a laugh riot as Nan’s son Colm. His comic timing as he struggles to find Nan’s mattress make for plenty of laughs. He is wholly believable in his portrayal of the oafish, almost middle-aged man who leads his siblings in the search for Nan’s money. Fionnula Flanagan is just as entertaining in her portrayal of Nan. Nan isn’t just some helpless, elderly woman. She proves to be pretty sharp even in her old age. She will have audiences laughing plenty when she and Emma set out to find the matress themselves without telling her own children. Her reaction to the male stripper (yes, there’s even a male stripper) at her 80th birthday party is timeless and will have anyone laughing just as uproariously. And then there’s Emma. Kelly Thornton’s take on Emma makes the story just as rich in its own way. Emma is the only one that show’s any real respect and love for Nan. Seeing Thornton handle Emma’s growth as Emma’s relationship with her grandmother grows adds even more depth to the story. Emma really is that hope for mankind among all of the selfish, short-sighted individuals that fill the world. She reminds audiences that it is possible to show care and concern for others over money, but that one must first care more for people than for money for that to happen. It is one more wonderful job of acting from the movie’s cast. And together with the work of her cast mates, it makes for one more equally wonderful reason to watch Life’s A Breeze at least once. It also shows once more why this deep, funny, and moving indie flick should be an early pick for any critic’s list of the year’s best new indie flicks.
The work of the cast in Life’s A Breeze, its central story, and its primary message together make it an early candidate for any critic’s list of the year’s best new indie flicks. It proves thanks to all of these elements that it is just as enjoyable as any dramedy churned out by Hollywood’s major studios. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Magnolia Home Entertainment online at http://www.magpictures.com/lifesabreeze/. More information on this and other releases from Magnolia Home Entertainment is available online at:
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