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Soundtrack review: Breath (Harry Gregson-Williams – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Breath (Harry Gregson-Williams – 2018)

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“Breath” is a 2017 film adaptation of Australian multi-award-winning author Tim Winton’s novel Breath. Based on Tim Winton’s award-winning and international bestselling novel set in mid-70s coastal Australia. Two teenage boys, hungry for discovery, form an unlikely friendship with a mysterious older adventurer who pushes them to take risks that will have a lasting and profound impact on their lives. Harry Gregson Williams wrote the score.

I was very curious about this score to see if a few steps out of his comfort zone would give HGW back his inspiration; in the past few years his mainstream scores haven’t been the most exciting and he’s been a little bit in the shadow of his younger brother. But here he is writing the score for an Australian movie and opening with a poignant, somber string based cue “In the river”, a quiet opening that already gives me hope with its emotional impact. The mood gets lighter, shinier then with that sound that somehow all surfing stories are drawn towards, regardless of who writes them; even Tom Holkenborg wrote a score like this for a documentary a couple of years ago. A cue like “First waves” evokes the same peaceful and eternal feelings I get on the sea shore, with those laid back beats and the string sounds that always make me think of the sun gleaming off the surface of the water. As I listen I just want to close my eyes and smell the sea and feel the warmth of the late afternoon sun.

As the score progresses it makes me long even more for the sea; Harry Gregson Williams goes quiet and minimalistic for this one, but the story doesn’t need more. It’s a sort of intimate adventure that focuses on discovering oneself and this is the kind of music that works; reflective, hopeful, grave when it needs to be. The other side of the surfing adventure sound is the grungy guitar one that comes up first in “Outside Sawyer point”, the sound for the danger, the thrill. Every cue describes the setting and the emotions of the story and the music has a clear identity. The guitar can play melancholy, can play suspense, can play optimism and the composer subtly explores all these emotions.

“Breath” for me is the comeback of Harry Gregson-Williams, a composer who some 15 years ago was writing some of my favourite scores; I know a powerful word like “comeback” doesn’t suit a quiet, almost ambient score like this one but believe me, the craft is still there and this one left me in the nicest, most relaxed mood and with a smile on my face. Something about the way the guitar, the violin and the cello worked together just got to me.

Cue rating: 82 / 100

Highlights:
In the River
First Waves
Styrofoam Boards
Going Home
After the Waves
The Social
Breath

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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