Will Francis and his business partner have decided to take a risk and open their new architectural landscaping firm in a seedy part of London that’s part of an urban renewal project. But as soon as they open shop, someone breaks in and steals all their computers. They replace the equipment only to have it stolen again a few days later. Will becomes frustrated that the police can’t seem to do anything about crime in the area and sets up his own stakeout.
This late-night activity puts further strain on his already shaky home life with live-in girlfriend, Liv, and her behaviorally-challenged daughter, Bea (who rarely eats or sleeps and constantly practices gymnastics).
With time, Will discovers that the break-ins have been perpetrated by an acrobatic young thief (Miro) who lives at home with his mother. But instead of turning the boy over to the police, Will finds himself instantly attracted to his Serbian single mom and (while convincing himself that he’s gathering evidence) pushes her toward a love affair.
The film starts with the line, “When you stop looking at each other, shouldn’t that be a warning?” With that, we understand that Will and Liv are having relationship troubles. These troubles grow and by the end of Breaking and Entering Will admits that his affair has drawn him outside of Liv and her daughter’s “circle.” He laments, “There’s a part of me so dark that it saw that circle as a cage.” He then begs Liv for her forgiveness. In fact, forgiveness is a central theme of the movie as nearly all its characters (including Miro) ask for and receive a second chance.
Liv is a warmhearted mother who sacrifices constantly for her daughter. She is incredibly patient and gives her life over to helping the handicapped girl live as normally as possible. With that same sacrificial attitude, Miro’s mom, Amira, also gives of herself for her child’s sake. Convinced that he’s a good kid who has gotten mixed up with the wrong people (his uncle’s gang), she works hard to supply a loving home and protect him from those bad influences. She’s also a very honest woman (except for one painful deception) who desires to hold her son accountable for his actions.
Although Will complains (in private) about Bea’s disability, it’s evident that he has a warm relationship with the teen. They spend time together, she calls him “Dad” and he is moved to tears when she’s injured.
Amira is a Muslim and is seen singing at a religious gathering. She also talks of her faith in relation to the Bosnian conflict that forced her to leave her country. Miro’s uncle meanly warns him, “Your mother’s a Muslim dog. She’ll have a loose tongue.”
Though not directly attributed to God, Liv speaks of a nagging sense of guilt: “Sometimes I think Bea was punished because I left my husband and I left Sweden.”
Will and Amira are seen naked from the waist up and fully nude from the back on several occasions—in bed and in a bathtub. In an attempt to protect her son—by resorting to blackmail—Amira has a friend take pictures of her and a sleeping Will naked in bed. (Once again, in this scene, there is breast and side nudity shown.) She becomes ashamed of her actions, however, and later apologizes and gives the pictures to Will. (We see them all on a computer screen.)
Liv and Will are seen taking off their clothes and in bed (covered by a sheet). When Bea walks into the bedroom in the morning, Will gets out of bed to take her to school. We don’t see him, but it’s implied that he’s naked in front of the girl until he pulls on some pants. Liv is also seen in the bathtub covered by water.
While on his stake-out Will encounters a prostitute who announces that she has no clothes on under her coat and pulls it open to prove it. (He sees everything; the camera sees her breasts.) Later, we see the woman tugging down her short skirt as she and a man are walking out of an alleyway. Another situation reveals her panties and garter.
Miro and his partners in crime smash windows to break into Will’s office and jump from very high rooftops when chased by the police. During one of his attempted robberies, Miro cuts his hand. Will’s partner has his car hit by crooks escaping in a van.
Bea is climbing around on a stack of large plastic pipes when a retaining post breaks free and sends her rolling down a flight of concrete steps.
Close to a dozen f-words are combined with a half-dozen repetitions each of the s-word and “a–.” “H—” is belted out a few times along with abuses of Jesus’ and God’s names. Crude references to male and female genitalia are made.
Several adults and one teen are seen smoking cigarettes at various times.
Although Miro makes an about-face in his criminal activities, his uncle and the ring of thieves continue their crime sprees. The film also tends to point at what it determines to be motivating social inequities. Even the police seem to be making excuses for the young people committing the crimes. And, though they’re trying to be compassionate, Will and Liv resort to lying to the police. The prostitute steals Will’s car.
Near the end of Breaking and Entering, Will and Liv go to the police station to face Miro. In front of everyone, Will admits to his own unwise choices. And Amira, afraid that this revelation will spell disaster for her son, sits beside the boy with tears in her eyes. Then the camera catches Liv regarding Amira with an open look of forgiveness and understanding, seeing a kindred spirit in a woman who should be nothing but a bitter rival.
That moment (underplayed to perfection by Robin Wright Penn) is a crystallization of what the film wants to say about the destructiveness of foolish choices and the absolute necessity for sacrifice and forgiveness.
Which makes it all the more unfortunate that the film has to spend so much time relishing unpunished acrobatic crimes and lingering over tawdry, salacious (nude) visuals. Not only does it rub moviegoers’ noses into scenes that nobody needs to see to get the point, it also generates a decidedly uneven aura. Is it celebrating lustful desire? Or lauding commitment and mercy? If the answer is both, I’m left with one more question: Should we justify the former by hoping for the latter?
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.