The easy going title of the easy going Irish dramedy Life’s a Breeze certainly feels fitting. It’s not very taxing, not stretching too hard to make a point of any kind, and there’s nothing particularly great or awful about it. It’s a breeze in and of itself, going in and out without a lot of fuss, fanfare, or too much of anything memorable. It’s a pleasant enough breeze, to be fair, but lightweight nonetheless.
A 79 year old woman (Fionnula Flanagan) gets upset after her welfare collecting, unmotivated son (Pat Shortt) rounds up the extended family to clear her house of all the junk she has been hoarding. Not because they threw out all her old phone books and bus tickets, but because they threw away her old mattress: a piece of furniture that didn’t hold any sentimental value, but it did contain fifty years worth of her savings that amounts to nearly a million Euros. From then on, it’s a wild goose chase as the son, the mother, and her teenage niece (newcomer Kelly Thornton) race around dumps, recycling depots, back alleys, and illegal dumping grounds trying to find it.
Writer and director Lance Daly (The Good Doctor) doesn’t try pushing the envelope at all, cribbing much of his film’s feeling and aesthetic from the kinds of quirky North American comedies that would kill at the Sundance Film Festival but make barely a ripple anywhere else. He’s all about the chase, the eventual media circus that ensues when it becomes known there’s a mattress with a load of money out there, and very little about the characters. None of them have any depth beyond single sentence descriptors, and anyone outside of the core three characters is particularly useless. There’s a lot of padding and sequences that can be excised even with the film struggling to make it past the 80 minute mark. The editing is also particularly shoddy and suspect. Some sequences seemingly skipping ahead mid-scene, while others crash into each other, abruptly cutting sometimes before having a point.
It’s not a very well made film by any stretch, but the intent is there, and when it comes to visuals and allowing his cast to make something out of the threadbare material, Daly excels. It looks gorgeous and he sets it all to a pleasant enough musical score that he had a hand in, but mostly Life’s a Breeze succeeds the most when the cast is simply turned loose and allowed to do whatever they want.
Flanagan’s a consummate professional, getting more out of simple disapproving and subtly hurt glances towards people than any of Daly’s dialogue. She’s paired nicely with a somewhat underutilized Thornton, even though for the first half of the movie, Daly has little clue what to do with her as a character. The film’s most memorable moments are actually when these two are together, not saying much at all of consequence, but there’s an understanding between the two that makes them more relatable than the rest of the family. Shortt also does a nice job making his layabout son more than just a buffoon that’s sitting around for comedic relief. He’s undoubtedly an idiot, but not an entirely irredeemable or unlikable one.
Despite Daly showing somewhat suspect filmmaking skills, Life’s A Breeze makes for fine afternoon viewing with the parent of grandparents should it show up on the afternoon television rounds. It’s the kind of film you put on in the background if you’re cooking a big holiday meal; the kind where you pop in and out for random scenes, you can still tell exactly what’s going on, and the only thing you remember is that it was mildly interesting to watch in those few moments. It might not be memorable enough for you to watch it in an entire sitting, but these films still have their place and at least it’s not condescending to the crowd it’s trying to please.