And Breathe Normally (Andið eðlilega) from Icelandic writer and director Isold Uggadottir is a spare examination of the unspoken connection between two women in dire circumstances.
The harsh, windy rain and chill of Iceland sets the scene for this quiet and moving tale.
Lára (Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir) and her 6 year old son Eldar (Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson) are broke. Just as she’s evicted from her apartment, she gets a job. She’ll be training as a border guard working at the airport.
Until the training is over and the paychecks are regular, they go on an “adventure” and live in her car.
Lára’s first day of training, she notices a discrepancy in the passport of a woman of color who claims to be French and is on her way to Canada. Lára is a bit surprised when her offhand question results in the woman getting pulled out of line. Lára escorts her to a holding area. Lára notices her looking at another woman of color and young girl who were in line behind her.
Lára immediately grasped what the glance behind meant. Her detainee was with that woman and girl. But she said nothing.
The woman and girl make it through, but the detainee with Lára does not.
The detainee turns out to be Adja (Babetida Sadjo), an asylum seeker from Guinea-Bissau. She’s put in an immigration housing center. Adja waits there to learn if she will be permitted to seek asylum in Canada or deported back to Guinea-Bissau.
Lára and Adja’s lives begin to intersect in numerous ways. At first it’s coincidental when they meet. They understand each other without really talking about why. Minimal details of their lives are revealed slowly. They’re both mothers. They are both lesbians. They are both desperate, although in different ways. The one thing they can do is help each other.
Lára and Adja are fierce and proud women. Life hasn’t been kind to either of them, but they aren’t giving in or giving up. Neither has anything left except courage and determination.
And Breathe Normally (Andið eðlilega) is a film about women, made by women. I think women will just get it when they see the film. The film is currently streaming on Netflix.
The trailer is in Icelandic with English subtitles. Parts of the film are in English, but much of it is in Icelandic.
Have you seen this film? What did you think of it?