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Not suitable under 15; parental guidance to 15 (strong adult themes, coercive sex scenes, illicit substance use, coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Breath
  • a review of Breath completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 10 May 2018.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not suitable due to strong adult themes, coercive sex scenes, illicit substance use and coarse language.
Children aged 15 Parental guidance recommended due to strong adult themes and coercive sex scenes.
Children aged 16 and over Ok for this age group, although parental guidance is recommended due to strong adult themes and coercive sex scenes.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Breath
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes, sex scenes and coarse language
Length: 115 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Breath is an adaptation of Australian author Tim Winton’s novel of the same name. It is a nostalgic coming-of-age film set in Australia in the late 1970s. Bruce ‘Pikelet’ Pike (Samson Coulter) is nearly fourteen when he and his best mate Ivan ‘Loonie’ Loon (Ben Spence) are seduced by the promising adventure, risk and mystique of surfing. Against a stunning backdrop of the Western Australian coast line, the two young boys dip their toes into surf culture, scrimping and saving for their first boards, hitching rides on the back of utes to catch waves and teaching themselves to ride a board.

One day, a seasoned surf pro, ‘Sando’ (Simon Baker) offers them a lift back from the beach telling the boys that they can leave their boards at his property to save them the effort of carrying them on their bikes. The relationship between Sando, the two boys and Sando’s American wife Eva (Elizabeth Debicki), deepens over time and Sando fosters the boys’ love of surfing and encourages them to take more and more precarious risks. Pikelet narrates the story, and through his eyes we see the complexity of handling life, dealing with fear, and navigating adult relationships and responsibility.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Boyhood and adolescence; risk and danger; coercive and abusive sexual relationships; domestic violence

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Loonie is a victim of domestic violence. There are no explicit scenes of violence, but it is implied that Loonie’s father is to blame for a black eye on one occasion and a broken arm on another.
  • A sex scene involving asphyxiation for pleasure, despite with an underage boy being coerced into performing the act by an adult woman.
  • Scene of a dead body floating in water and the implication that it is from a drug related shooting.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Scenes of treacherous and dangerous waves.
  • Loonie holds onto the back of a ute whilst riding his bike and starts going so fast that he thinks he might have an accident.
  • Loonie likes to stand in the middle of the highway when a truck is coming and plays ‘chicken’ (to see how long he can stand there before running away).
  • A scene of the aftermath of a collision between a car and a cattle truck. Pikelet rushes in to try and rescue people from the wreckage. One of the cattle is shot to put it out of it’s pain.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

  • Children of this age are also likely to find the above scenes disturbing. They are also likely to find the sex scenes between an adult woman and a young boy very confusing, and the complexity of the relationship would be difficult to explain to this age group.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • As above, children of this age are likely to find the sex scenes between an adult woman and a young boy very confusing, and the complexity of the relationship would be difficult to explain to this age group.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Younger teens may also find the scenes mentioned above disturbing or confusing.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Flirtation and romantic moments between Pikelet and a girl at school. They hold hands and she touches his leg under the table.
  • Pikelet tries to glimpse up a woman’s skirt as she lies sleeping. She wakes up and catches him.
  • Loonie talks about a girl finding a ‘flawlessly well-formed Johnson’ in his pocket.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Eva seduces Pikelet into a sexual relationship and there are a number of naked sex scenes. In two of the sex scenes Eva coerces Pikelet to let her asphyxiate herself with a plastic bag and a belt whilst they make love. He tells her clearly that he doesn’t like it, but she uses emotional blackmail to convince him to do it again. This is extremely distressing for Pikelet.
  • There is a sex scene between Eva and Sando.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Eva smokes marijuana from both a bong and a rolled joint.
  • Loonie comes back from travelling overseas and shows Pikelet that he has brought back some marijuana.

Coarse language

There is frequent coarse language in this movie, including:

  • shit; fucking; rooted; buggery; prick; bloody; the duck’s nuts; bullshit.

In a nutshell

Breath is a very poignant and poetic portrayal of boyhood crossing into manhood. It is also a great surf film. The incredibly beautiful cinematic shots of the ocean and the swelling waves are an allegory for the inevitable, terrifying leap into adulthood. The film deals subtly with themes of masculinity, risk and fear. Young men, in particular, may find this film empowering. Although the film at times feels targeted towards younger teens, the abusive sexual relationship between Eva and Pikelet, and the consequences that arise, may be too confronting for, or possibly misunderstood by, less mature teenagers. Parents are advised to think carefully about the suitability of this content before allowing their children to see the film. 

The main message from this movie is that saying ‘no’ to situations that are too risky, unsafe or uncomfortable does not make you a lesser, weaker ‘man’ or person. You can learn to overcome your fears and take risks, but there is also strength in learning when to say no.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • The importance of setting boundaries about what is comfortable and feels safe.
  • Learning to overcome panic and fear.
  • Protecting yourself from abusive relationships.
  • Standing up for yourself.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as.

  • Safe sex and consequences of not using protection.
  • Sexual predators and sex with underage children.
  • Illicit drug use and the consequences.
  • Excessive and destructive risk taking.
  • Domestic violence.