By James Doherty | Drama
A macho father is worried that his young son is soft. So he forces him to fight.

Living amidst Ireland's community of "travellers," Patrick is a stern, harsh father, who is concerned that his son Francie is too soft, with his gentle temperament and his asthma. Though Francie boxes like his dad, he doesn't like it. But Patrick insists on toughening him up, forcing him to fight against a tougher, stronger fighter when they scrap.

When Patrick catches Francie playing with his mother's lipstick, he decides to straighten Francie out once and for all. But those efforts have a devastating consequence, forever changing the relationship between father and son.

Directed by James Doherty from a script by Theo James Krekis, this short drama is a powerful, sharply drawn portrait of a troubled father and son, in which a child falls short of a parent's expectations. That disappointment begins to poison the relationship between the two, affecting the entire ecosystem of the family and leading to a collision of cataclysmic proportions.

The film has a naturalistic, sometimes doc-like look and feel, with cinematography that captures the well-worn textures and colors of a milieu that's transient, improvised and ad-hoc. The visuals have a raw authenticity in portraying the milieu of the Traveller community, and the production itself was shot in Ireland with the help of Irish Travellers' rights groups and using talent from the local Traveller communities. But the focus of the storytelling is psychological, based more on character and relationships. As Patrick and his son clash, the interactions have a patient, perceptive eye and ear for how brutality shapes our past and present.

Patrick is a hard man and a tough father, who regards hardening his son against the vagaries of life as his primary job as a parent. The story moves forward primarily from his perspective, as he stands vigilant against signs of softness in Francie. Actor John Connors has a palpable physical presence onscreen, solid and fixed as a mountain, with a formidable, even menacing bearing. It's a difficult, almost unsympathetic role and character, but both Connors and the writing gesture to a traumatic past with Patrick's own father, as well as slight flickers of doubt.

Patrick is sometimes frankly confused by his son, played almost silently by young actor Lee O'Donaghue with a touching gentleness. Francie loves animals, plays well with his baby sibling and possesses an acute sensitivity -- one that turns into a hunted wariness around his father. When Patrick hits his breaking point with Francie, he's determined to stamp out the "softness" in Francie once and for all. But this sets off a chain of events that alter the relationship between them once and for all.

Known for their nomadic, itinerant lifestyles, Irish Travellers are a group indigenous to Ireland, with unique history, language and traditions. These include bare-knuckle boxing, which plays an important role in Traveller culture and in the identities of Traveller men. But there are other parts of Traveller legacy that Patrick wants to transmit to Francie in the last, ill-fated movement of "Breathe," and for a moment, it seems there is a hope of rapprochement between the pair. But in one moment of frustration, Patrick's inability to accept and account for his son's true nature has devastating consequences. There is some relief at the end, with immediate tragedy averted. But short, sharp shards of images hint at a quiet but all-encompassing desolation. The final shot is very brief, almost fleeting -- but the fallout will likely last a lifetime.

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