‘And Breathe Normally’ Review: A Drama That Humanizes the Border

In Isold Uggadottir’s new film, “And Breathe Normally,” a young boy (Patrik Nokkvi Petursson) and his mother, Lara (Kristin Thora Haraldsdottir), are looking at cats in an animal shelter when he asks her, “Why do they have to live in cages?”

This innocent yet sincere question, about which he is persistent, ultimately stumps the impatient Lara but prompts both her and the audience to consider why we’ve come to accept common practices so morally unjust that even a child can detect them.

The boy’s query — “Why do they have to live in cages?” — lies at the core of this quiet Icelandic film, now streaming on Netflix, in which Lara, a border control officer, learns what it means to be at the mercy of the law after she and her son, Eldar, are evicted and forced to sleep in their car.

At work, where Lara has the power to reject or deny entry for migrants, she declines passage to Adja (Babetida Sadjo), a woman from Guinea who is traveling with her daughter and sister. The decision leads Lara to confront her privilege when she later finds she must accept help from someone she least expects: Adja, now living in a refugee center, who sneaks in Lara and Eldar so that they can have a warm bed.

“And Breathe Normally” doesn’t rely on the cinematic clichés that so often arise when two very different people develop an unlikely friendship. Rather, it engages the audience with a deeply resonant narrative that highlights the ways our sense of safe keeping can suddenly be ripped from our grasp. And it reminds us of the power we possess, even when we think we’re helpless.

And Breathe Normally

Movie data powered by IMDb.com

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes.

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