We’ve all seen a ‘coming of age’ film or ten. Some are good (e.g. The Last Picture Show) but most are fairly dire (I’m sure you can provide your own examples). They generally involve conflict, bad behaviour and parental lack-of-understanding that leads to catharsis, epiphany and ‘learning something’ (a process rigorously satirised every week by South Park). Just like real life isn’t.
I saw an Austrian film yesterday that fits perfectly into the category but has none of the clichés: Atmen (titled Breathing for English-speaking audiences). It’s about an 18-year-old boy in a Juvenile Detention Centre who is coming up to a parole hearing. He’s withdrawn and unco-operative and seems to have little expectation of success. His Probation Officer (I’m translating to the apparent UK equivalent role) is pushing him to get a job, as that will impress the review panel, and he lands a trainee position at the Vienna City Morgue, collecting and delivering corpses.
I urge you to see it, if you can. There are no car chases or gross-out comedy scenes, obviously, but neither is it a pretentious Arthouse movie. It is one of the most humane films I have ever seen. Despite our hero’s lack of expression, we can see him start to understand life (and death) and gradually gain some insight into why he is where he is.
This is the trailer, which gives away more of the plot than it should, perhaps. Trust me: just go and see the film.*
*No, I never trust anyone that says ‘Trust me’ either….