After surging to the top ranks of filmmakers with three lauded book adaptations in a row — “The English Patient,” which won him an Oscar, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Cold Mountain” — Anthony Minghella returns to his own backyard, culturally diverse London, for the urban drama “Breaking and Entering,” which he also wrote.
Focusing on the intertwining lives of an upscale architect (Jude Law), his partner (Robin Wright Penn), who is mother to a possibly autistic daughter, and a Bosnian refugee (Juliette Binoche) whose delinquent teen son has been burglarizing the architect’s new offices, Minghella again proves his mettle as a thoughtful chronicler of the fraught byways and transcendent interactions of human hearts.
Also in full bloom is the director’s trademark way with strong female performances, from the mixture of maternal fierceness and cautionary hope that is Binoche’s character to Wright Penn’s melancholic portrait of relationship solitude.
GENESIS: “I was anxious to return to the scale and budget of a movie like ‘Truly Madly Deeply,’ the first movie that I made, something original and contemporary and set in London. I’d had an idea 15 years ago about a couple coming back from a dinner party and finding out that their house had been burgled, and I was intrigued by the idea of using a small crisis like a burglary to cast light on a relationship. And when I was in Romania shooting ‘Cold Mountain,’ we were renovating an office in London at the same time, and that office was broken into about a dozen times. I remembered those notebooks I had on ‘Breaking and Entering,’ and thought of reviving the idea, but also extending the story into a kind of meditation on the state of London.”
VISION: “I tend to be a miniaturist in what I want to write about: intimacy and personalities and relationships. But as a director, I’ve got an interest in larger-scale work, the cinema of cinema. So I’m looking to always inflect the intimacy of writing against a much bigger landscape. And London has this invisible constituency that makes the city work. We’re sharing the same geographical space, but not necessarily the same ideological or emotional space, certainly not the same privileges. I wanted to remind myself that people don’t leave their natural countries and migrate without a reason. There’s always a story.
“Also, I suppose I started thinking about two women in very different circumstances, and the degree to which both find their lives dominated by the demands and needs of their children.”
CHALLENGES: “I wanted to make London as much of a character as I could. By the same token, shooting in a capital city is very hard, because people are trying to go to work, or come home from work, or do work. It required a lot of negotiating, the good will and manners of the public, and by and large we got it. But often we were down to a documentary crew — eight or nine people on set — and it was a challenge to really make London look like the London I know, live in and work in.”
MAGIC: “The boy who plays Juliette Binoche’s son, Rafi Gavron, who found his way into the auditioning process because he was a free runner, turned out to be an extraordinary actor. And also, the degree to which somebody like Juliette Binoche was able to summon Sarajevo — the sound and characteristics of Bosnian women — in her performance. And to work with Jude three times in a row was a real pleasure. We’re so close, Jude and I hardly speak to each other when we’re shooting. It’s very much a collaboration.”
NEXT: “I have two projects. One is called ‘The Ninth Life of Louis Drax,’ which I’m keen to do soon. I’m also working with Richard Curtis on a screenplay of ‘The Number One Ladies Detective Agency.’ “