Life’s A Breeze Is A Dramedy Well Worth The Watch

Courtesy:  Magnolia Pictures/Magnolia Home Entertainment

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 More information on this and other releases from Magnolia Home Entertainment is available online at:




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My Uncle Rafael Is Loaded With Laughs And Heart

Courtesy:  TNP Films

Courtesy: TNP Films

My Uncle Rafael is the best new independent movie of 2014.  And it is arguably one of the best new movies of the year, too.  Originally released in 2012, its release this week on DVD marks the first time that it has seen the light of day in home release format.  And while it obviously owes a certain amount of its success to Robin Williams’ 1993 hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire, it still manages to stand strong on its own merits as a movie that is at least somewhat original in its presentation.  That is the central point of the movie’s success.  It has all the heart and wit of Mrs. Doubtfire without Robin Williams’ cross-dressing and manic character portrayal.  And while it does maintain at least some similarity in its approach to the family-fixing plotline, it approaches the issue through a multi-cultural avenue rather than that of a desperate father. Sign of the times, it would seem.  Just as important to the movie’s enjoyment is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  It would have been so simple for the cast, which is relatively well-known and experienced to treat the movie like the independent movie that it is.  But each member of the cast approached this work with the same seriousness used in its other performances.  The professional approach taken by the cast of My Uncle Rafael adds so much enjoyment to the movie.  It adds so much especially considering the quality of the movie’s production values.  While released via an independent studio—TNP Films—the movie’s production values are just as quality as anything released by any of Hollywood’s “Power 5” studios.  That actor, along with the work of the cast and of the movie’s writers, makes My Uncle Rafael a complete joy for audiences of almost any age.  Again, it isn’t the first time that the story presented here has been utilized for a movie.  But its execution makes it a move well worth the watch.

The story that is presented in My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  It is the story of an outsider coming into a family’s home and fixing said family.  It has been used numerous times in the past.  In 1993, it was presented in the hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Two years prior, it was used in pro-wrestling legend Terry “Hulk” Hogan’s family comedy Suburban Commando.  And to a lesser extent it was also used in Vin Diesel’s 2005 flash-in-the-pan flick The Pacifier.  It could even be argued that a similar formula was used way back in the 1989 John Candy dramedy Uncle Buck.  Considering all of this, it leaves one wondering how many other ways in which the “family fix” formula could be used without it being stale and unoriginal.  Enter My Uncle Rafael.  My Uncle Rafael (not to be confused with Joe Pesci’s 1992 dramedy My Cousin Vinny—yes that bad pun was intended) takes the classic “family fix” formula and updates it by incorporating a multi-cultural theme into the story.  Most interesting here is the fact that the duo used an elderly Middle Eastern man as the movie’s central figure.  This was really interesting especially considering the tensions between Americans and those of Middle Eastern descent currently living in the United States.  It’s an angle that few if any writers would even begin to attempt.  For that alone, Pirhamzei and Yagemann are deserving of a certain amount of credit.  That the duo didn’t try to make a direct light of Rafael’s nationality as a soap box makes the script even more worthy of applause.  Omitting that from the script makes the rest of the story far more enjoyable and in turn more memorable.

The script behind My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  That goes without saying.  But there are aspects of the script that make it surprisingly enjoyable.  As enjoyable as the movie’s script proves to be in the long run, it would be nothing without the abilities of the movie’s cast.  John Michael Higgins (Yes Man, Happily Divorced, Bad Teacher) brings plenty of experience to the movie as do Missi Pyle (The Artist, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Gone Girl), Anthony Clark (Yes, Dear, Boston Common, Soul Man), Joe Lo Truglio (Role Models, Wreck-It-Ralph, Pineapple Express), Carly Chaikin (Suburgatory, The Last Song, In A World…), and Rachel Blanchard (Clueless—TV Series, 7th Heaven, Are You Afraid of the Dark).  The competition between Higgins’ Damon and Clark’s Jack makes for plenty of laughs.  It is a competition much like that seen in Mrs. Doubtfire.  Missi Pyle is just as entertaining as she becomes caught up in the movie’s central love triangle all while trying to maintain her place as mother to her children.  But it is really Vahik Pirhamzei’s portrayal of the loveable Uncle Rafael that really shines.  Pirhamzei’s portrayal gives Uncle Rafael so much heart and warmth.  He makes Rafael loveable not only to his fellow characters but to audiences, too.  One can’t help but agree in watching Rafael that maybe the uncle really is at the center of everything.  Only audiences that watch the movie or have watched it will get that reference.  In hindsight, Rafael’s portrayal makes that line make perfect sense.  That isn’t to take away from Pirhamzei’s cast mates by any means.  Both the more well-known actors and the lesser known cast members add their own enjoyment to the story in whole, too.  But it is his portrayal that holds everything together and makes each of his cast mates’ portrayals all the more entertaining with the end result of the cast in general doing its own part to show once again why My Uncle Rafael  is this year’s best new independent movie and one of the year’s best movies overall.

The writing that went into My Uncle Rafael and the acting on the part of the movie’s cast both play their own important part in the overall success of this surprisingly entertaining story.  Rounding out the presentation is its production values.  Being that this movie is independent, one would think that it would not have the production values of its bigger name family friendly counterparts that have come before.  But the reality is that its production values are quite high.  That includes the movie’s cinematography, its backdrops, costumes, and all other elements that went into bringing the movie to life.  Having such quality production values, it makes sense that the largely veteran cast would want its portrayals to be just as high quality.  The combination of that high quality acting and equally high quality production values adds to the ability of audiences to suspend their disbelief and in turn allow themselves to be immersed into the story and thus offer it the chance that it quite well deserves.  In giving it the chance that it deserves, audiences will agree that this movie is just as enjoyable as its more well-known predecessors and that it is one of this year’s best new movies as well as the year’s best new independent movie.

My Uncle Rafael is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Amazon at  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at