D: Lance Daly / 80m
Cast: Fionnula Flanagan, Pat Shortt, Kelly Thornton, Eva Birthistle, Gerry McCann, Lesley Conroy, Willie Higgins
Thirteen year old Emma (Thornton) is tasked with visiting her Nan (Flanagan) twice a day to make sure she’s okay. Nan lives in a big old house with lots of clutter and her layabout son Colm (Shortt). They’re part of an extended family that includes Colm’s brother Des (McCann), his sister Annie (Conroy), Kelly’s mother Margaret (Birthistle) and their various spouses. Everyone has a fondness for Nan but are too busy with their own lives to pay her much attention. One day, Colm asks Emma to take Nan out for the day so that the family can surprise her by giving her home a makeover. When they get back, the clutter has vanished, there’s a new sofa, new kitchen appliances, and a new bed been installed. But Nan has only one question: where’s the mattress from the bed?
She asks because she kept all her life savings inside it, a sum that amounts to almost a million Euros. At first, the family doesn’t believe her but, unsure that she’s not telling the truth, they track down Arthur (Higgins), the man who took all the rubbish away. He tells them it’s gone to landfill, but when they visit the site they’re unable to find it. Nan thinks Arthur’s been lying and they follow him out of town to a place at the side of the road where he dumped everything, but the mattress isn’t there. Then Colm makes the mistake of going on a radio show and alerting everyone to the mattress’s disappearance and the money inside it. What began as a small-scale “search and rescue” mission now develops into a country-wide search for the mattress and the million Euros, and the family in danger of losing everything.
An Irish/Swedish co-production – with some scenes filmed in Sweden – Life’s a Breeze is the type of modest, low-key production that often succeeds just by being modest and low-key. However, while it’s moderately funny and it has a spirited cast who could do this sort of thing blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs, the short running time is an indication of how slight the material actually is. It’s also a simple tale, and while it skirts around issues relating to the elderly, personal dignity and avarice, it does so with such a lightness of touch that these attempts at adding some depth don’t always pay off.
That said, it is mildly diverting, and Daly handles it all with a confidence that helps make up for the less than attractive visual design and the often uncoordinated cinematography (Daly again, but uncredited). Ultimately though, the movie’s strengths are its cast and its score. Flanagan portrays Nan with a quiet sense of despair at the “idjit” antics of her family, Shortt does panic like it’s a daily occurrence for Colm, and Thornton displays a maturity that makes Emma the most interesting character of all. And the score – by Daly and Declan and Eugene Quinn – is jaunty and upbeat, and provides a suitably catchy counterpoint to the action.
Rating: 6/10 – with a little bit less going on than meets the eye, Life’s a Breeze is pleasant enough but isn’t likely to remain in the memory for long; boosted by an impressive first-time performance by Thornton, the movie is amusing, moderately charming, and doesn’t outstay its welcome.