D: Peter Facinelli / 78m
Cast: Milo Gibson, Jordan Hinson, Adam Huber, James Kyson, Lily Anne Harrison, Justine Wachsberger, Joaquim de Almeida
Harry (Gibson) is a career criminal, a burglar who targets homes when the owners are away on holiday, and who aren’t gun owners. Along with his cousin, Chris (Huber), he makes enough money to ensure he doesn’t have to get a proper job. One day, Chris announces that their next burglary will be his last: he has a temp job lined up, and he doesn’t want to wind up in jail. Harry is dismissive of Chris’s ambition, but their last burglary goes badly wrong and they’re lucky to avoid being caught. Harry still doesn’t Chris is being serious, but finds himself carrying out their next job on his own. While he goes from room to room gathering valuables and electronics, he discovers a woman (Hinson) in the bath who is trying to kill herself. Harry’s inherent lack of empathy causes him to point her in the direction of tablets that will help her achieve her aim, and then he leaves. But he doesn’t get far before he suffers a rare attack of conscience, and rushes back to try and save the woman, an unselfish act that sees him behaving in a way that’s completely new to him…
A romantic comedy (whose humour is largely on the dark, uncomfortable side), Breaking and Exiting does something unexpected from the start: it brings the viewer in at a point where Harry is making the decision to return and save the woman – who is called Daisy – from killing herself. So, from the beginning we know that Harry isn’t as bad as the screenplay will subsequently paint him as it rewinds the action back a few days. As a result we can bear Harry’s selfish, egoistic behaviour and attitude towards Chris, and his girlfriend, Lana (Wachsberger), partly because it’s inappropriately funny, and partly because we know he’s going to change. Hinson, who wrote the script and also produces as well as starring, wisely allows the viewer to have some vicarious fun through Harry’s unalloyed narcissism before showing us the good heart he has buried deep, deep inside him. But he’s also curious, just like the viewer, to find out why Daisy wants to kill herself. There’s a boyfriend she’s angry with, but it always seems as though that’s merely a small part of it all, and just as she teases out Harry’s deeply-rooted compassion, so we slowly learn what’s at the root of her unhappiness.
Along the way, Harry and Daisy get to know each other, and although there are a handful of generic rom-com moments, the script does its best to steer clear of anything too obvious as the story develops. Harry is open and honest about his criminal activities, while Daisy behaves wildly and erratically in line with her current mental state. It’s not until Harry challenges Daisy to let him cook her a final meal that mixed emotions on both sides begin to coalesce into something more stable for both of them. Hinson is a winning presence, likeable and endearing even when talking about suicide with determination, while Gibson (looking and sounding very much like his father), has an easy-going charm about him that is appealing and sincere. Together, the pair add a surprising amount of texture and depth to their characters, and when things turn more serious, they make the necessary switch in tone that much more believable. Facinelli directs with a good understanding of the absurdity of the basic set up, but makes it work in tandem with his committed leads, and offers up a neatly assembled and handled rom-com that does its best to avoid being predictable in its details.
Rating: 8/10 – with the chemistry between Gibson and Hinson an added plus, and Hinson’s screenplay balancing humour and more serious matters with aplomb, Breaking and Exiting is that rare rom-com that could have benefited from being longer; with fluid, emotive camerawork from DoP Christopher Hamilton and his team, and a terrific soundtrack, the movie has more than enough going on for even the most casual of viewers.