This week we’re leaping over to Iceland! Don’t worry–our film is as bleak as its landscape.
And Breathe Normally
A single mother in Iceland working as a border guard stops a woman with a forged passport, unknowingly changing both of their lives in unexpected ways.
Lára is a struggling single mother to Eldar, whose father seems to be well out of the picture. A recovering addict, Lára doesn’t have many people to lean on for help. Having difficulty paying for groceries, let alone rent, Lára is relieved when a low-paying job as an airport border guard works out.
To give Eldar a friend to keep him company, Lára agrees to let him adopt a cat. I’m so glad she does because the cat, in addition to being an important plot device, is so adorable.
Things are starting to look up for the small but close family. Lára, eager to impress the higher ups, manages to catch a tiny detail on a woman’s passport that likely means it’s a fake. However, Lára begins to regret this choice as she has to follow through on this case, escorting the woman, Adja, to be questioned and ultimately detained. Lára seems to be a naturally compassionate person, catching onto some subtle body language that reveals Adja is traveling with her daughter and sister.
After a brief trial, Adja is sentenced to 30 days in prison and must pay all legal fees associated with her case. Later, the court will determine whether Adja will be allowed to continue on to her destination, Toronto, or be deported.
Meanwhile, Lára and Eldar are evicted from their apartment and forced to make do with sleeping in the car. As Lára sleeps, Eldar lets kitty Musi out to explore. Not his wisest choice. After losing sight of Musi, Eldar goes looking for his lost cat, sending Lára into a panic when she wakes up.
When Lára does find Eldar, he is with Adja, who has found the missing cat. Feeling awkward, Lára bundles Eldar up without a glance back. That is, until Eldar points out it would be polite to at least give Adja a ride since she reunited him with Musi.
Lára returns and takes Adja back to the apartments where she is living in limbo. After this ordeal, Lára and Eldar sleep with the car parked behind the building. When Adja realizes this situation, she invites Lára and Eldar to sleep in her room, where they can at least stretch out and get warm.
The guarded Adja reveals she is fleeing Guinea-Bissau as a lesbian who was violently attacked when her sexuality was discovered. Her partner did not survive the assault, and Adja fears returning to her home would be a death sentence.
When Adja gets the terrible news that she will be deported to Guinea-Bissau, Lára devises a plan to help her. Can these two ladies beat a system so heavily stacked against them?
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
This film builds slowly to a beautiful ending that is compassionate to both of our leads. Adja is of course far from the job-stealing, drug-smuggling murderer that so many people are keen to believe of immigrants and refugees. Like all refugees, Adja leaves behind all that is familiar because her life is at risk–not that being threatened with death is the only reason countries should accept more immigrants into the fold. Lára is also very human, dealing with her own struggles but still showing a great deal of compassion for another woman facing circumstances beyond her control rather than being a nameless, faceless border guard.
The disadvantage here is the slow build means it does take a long time for the bond between Adja and Lára to form. I do wish we had gotten more time with them, though the lasting impact of their chance encounter is highlighted by the short time they spend together.