Boys come of age in Australia too? Crikey! Or, in the more obscure down-under vernacular of Breath, that’s the duck’s nuts. Ripper!

Actor Simon Baker (TV’s The Mentalist) does triple duty here as first-time director, co-writer (adapting a 2008 novel by Tim Winton, who also narrates) and co-star. He plays Sando, a slightly washed-up surfer living in Western Australia in the mid-1970s.

We don’t meet Sando right away, however. The film opens on the friendship between two teenaged boys. Bruce “Pikelet” Pike (Samson Coulter) is 13 and a half, and a straight arrow compared to his 14-year-old buddy Loonie (Ben Spence), who enjoys riding his bicycle into games of chicken with local transport trucks.

The easygoing summer friendship recalls the excellent Canadian film Sleeping Giant, with the difference that this is also a surfing movie. Pikelet and Loonie take a trip to the seaside and witness guys riding the waves. “Never had I seen men do something so beautiful, so pointless and elegant,” Pikelet breathes in awe.

Soon the two pals are paddling around on Styrofoam boards, until a chance meeting introduces them to Sando, a surf guru with a grumpy American girlfriend named Eva (Elizabeth Debicki) and a pocketful of ocean platitudes. He chides Loonie for wanting someone to photograph their exploits, telling him: “You were there.” (Though as Loonie points out, Sando’s earlier career put him on magazine covers, so he’s had his share of snaps already.)

The film’s plot is as capricious and changeable as the sea, which may annoy those looking for more to, you know, happen. The boys quarrel and make up. Pikelet, who starts the film not quite certain what the other sex is, finds a girlfriend and then loses her – her formal letter of termination is one of the movie’s funnier moments. And between the attentions of Sando and Eva, let’s just say that Pikelet comes of age. Fair dunkum!

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