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Going for broke 

Anthony Minghella looks at big-city dynamics through small-time crime in Breaking and Entering. Tara Thorne gets a move on it.

It's mid-September in Toronto and it's unseasonably chilly. Many of assembled journalists, the ones based in LA and Europe, are grumbling about unexpectedly having to buy sweaters.

But they don't need them here in this cramped hotel conference room filled two-to- one with photographers and camerapeople trying to get pictures of Jude Law, a star of Breaking and Entering, opening in Halifax this week. A soggy humidity smelling faintly of coffee and panic hangs over the room, packed to standing-only. Law is flanked by his writer-director, Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) and Juliette Binoche, whose hair is dyed an unfortunate shade of blonde, brown roots blazing. Robin Wright Penn and producer Sydney Pollack round out the panel.

"One of the blessings of that offshoot is how much I've learned in those six years," says Minghella of his producing partnership with the legendary Pollack (Sketches of Frank Gehry). "The other day we were having dinner and he said, "The trouble with that guy is he doesn't know what he doesn't know.' And this is a movie, to me, about not knowing what you don't know."

Law plays Will Francis, a London architect who constructs his hip new office in the low-income neighbourhood of Kings Cross. He's promptly robbed by a gang of parkour-practicing teens (parkour is that trend with all the jumping). One of them, Miro (Rafi Gavron), keeps Will's laptop for himself. Since the police are doing little to help, Will stakes out the office, hoping to catch the robbers. He finds Miro in the neighbourhood, with his Bosnian immigrant mother Amira (Binoche), a tailor. If Juliette Binoche opens the door, you're going to get distracted, and so they have an affair. Will's girlfriend is Liv (Wright Penn), who has a daughter with Asperger's disorder, a mild form of autism. Her daughter is obsessed with gymnastics—she doesn't sleep. She can't stop moving.

"I was interested in the idea of two mothers with special children," says Minghella. "And I've known several mothers in my life who have had children who are very demanding in lots of different ways.

"They both have a talent to move, and for one it's a healing talent, and for the other the talent's being amused. One of them is exercising—this is something I read about, people with Asperger's; I got an email from someone who had a friend with Asperger's who said she did 500 backflips every night

—I was intrigued by this idea of moving to try and solve yourself. But in Miro's case, his skill is deployed for a transgression, it doesn't heal."

Will can't find happiness at home—he and Liv have been dating for years but she won't marry him—and doesn't find it with Amira, who has games of her own to play. Both women are fierce protectors. They put their children first.

"When you've given that sacrifice," says Wright Penn of motherhood, "you're so completely in the bubble with that human being that the emotional criminality that it creates on the other end would be this connection."

"I don't know if I know how to describe it—you become a mother when you have a child, but I don't know you're a mother as a woman," says Binoche. "But my character, because she comes from war and she's been through a traumatic experience trying to save first her son, then herself, when she arrives in London it's another story. Because the fear of being betrayed and having a son in prison, all of a sudden there's no question. I think she becomes a mother while all this story is happening. It's only in front of a situation or experience that you know yourself."

For Minghella, Breaking and Entering is about the complexities and contradictions of modern living, how the film's characters exist side-by-side but have lives foreign to one another.

"You can take the audience on a story that perhaps takes you closer, or certainly examines the prejudices you may have had at the beginning of the film, or the characters have about this burglary that occurs, and show them that the city right now is an extraordinary, unknowable labyrinth-like collection of people with different ideas, different life expectancies, different affluences. It can teach you what you don't know you don't know."

Breaking and Entering opens March 2. See Movie Times for info.

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