6.9/10
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106 user 69 critic

The Air I Breathe (2007)

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A drama based on an ancient Chinese proverb that breaks life down into four emotional cornerstones: happiness, pleasure, sorrow and love. A businessman bets his life on a horse race; a gangster sees the future; a pop star falls prey to a crime boss; a doctor must save the love of his life.

Director:

Jieho Lee

Writers:

Jieho Lee, Bob DeRosa

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kevin Bacon ... Love
Julie Delpy ... Gina
Brendan Fraser ... Pleasure
Andy Garcia ... Fingers
Sarah Michelle Gellar ... Sorrow
Clark Gregg ... Henry
Emile Hirsch ... Tony
Forest Whitaker ... Happiness
Kelly Hu ... Jiyoung
Evan Parke ... Danny
Taylor Nichols ... Sorrow's Father
Victor Rivers ... Eddie
Cecilia Suárez ... Allison
Todd Stashwick ... Frank
Jon Bernthal ... Interviewer
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Storyline

A frustrated and clumsy bank clerk overhears the conversation of three coworkers in the toilet about a fix in a horse race, and bets a large amount. He loses the bet and owes the money to the dangerous and powerful mobster Fingers. A gangster who works for Fingers has the ability of foreseeing pieces of the future; he is assigned to collect money for the boss, with his troublemaker nephew Tony, and is beaten up by a gang. The manager of pop-star Trista loses her contract to Fingers without her agreement and she is threatened by the gangster. A dedicated doctor seeks a blood donor that might have a rare blood type to save the life of his secret and unrequited passion, a beautiful epidemiologist who's married to a friend. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Happiness. Sorrow. Pleasure. Love. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence, language and some sexual content/nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | Mexico

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

17 October 2008 (Mexico) See more »

Also Known As:

Cuatro vidas y un destino See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$19,487, 27 January 2008, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$25,775, 4 February 2008

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$858,728, 6 June 2008
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a pop star, however she does not sing any songs herself. They are originally sung by Kim Wayman. See more »

Goofs

When Gina is in the hospital, we see the patient monitor in demonstration mode ("demo" is flashing). It also indicates the patient is an adult male. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Happiness: I always wondered, when a butterfly leaves the safety of its cocoon, does it realize how beautiful it has become? Or does it still just see itself as a caterpillar?
See more »

Connections

References Goodfellas (1990) See more »

Soundtracks

Surface Tension
Written by Gazelle Amber Valentine and G. Edgar Livengood
Performed by Jucifer
Courtesy of Velocette Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Happiness, Pleasure, Sorrow, Love…The Air I Breathe
2 March 2008 | by jaredmobarakSee all my reviews

First-time director Jieho Lee has brought us the next installment of the multiple stories genre threaded together as though fate and coincidence are the name of the game. This type of narrative has been around for a long time, most definitely before Robert Altman's Short Cuts, but at least there is an example from 15 years ago, and I can't rack the brains for an earlier one at this time. The most well known to those out there today is of course Oscar-winner Crash. Lee's The Air I Breathe, based on an ancient Chinese proverb that life can be broken down into the four emotional cornerstones of Happiness, Pleasure, Sorrow, and Love, is not as good as Haggis' film, and I think even that one is overrated. It's not that I disliked this one, I actually found a lot that I really loved, unfortunately, there's more that feels overdone, overwritten, and absolutely unrealistic. One thing you can't fault it for, however, is the superb cast and acting.

Some of the dialogue is almost too obvious, at times having answers repeat all the words in the question…just a bad redundancy as though the audience might not comprehend a short answer. These characters are so important in the scheme of each other's lives that everything out of their mouths needs to be so well crafted that it becomes stiff. The delivery, though, is almost consistently superb. Brendan Fraser is great in a rare serious role, the kind of stuff that began his career. Very stoic and deliberate in all he does, you begin to feel for him as the stone façade starts to falter. Due to the story-structure going out of order, we see some of this emotional evolution before the catalyst for it, but once that event occurs, it makes everything before it make more sense and I actually think it was handled well as a result. Even his ability to see the future was utilized in a realistic way that it never felt like a gimmick, just a skill he had and used. The best actor, again as almost always, is Forest Whitaker as a by-the-books successful man who has finally realized that his pristine life is devoid of true happiness. No material needs can fill the void of actually living, whether living wealthy or poorly, it is the act of adventure and excitement that is necessary to enjoy. His final reaction of pure adulation is the best part of the film and it happens about twenty minutes in.

One would think that a story as involving as this would have pretty equal billing for all roles, but that is not true. Whitaker and Kevin Bacon are underused while Fraser is involved at almost every turn. Andy Garcia, however, is the one that stays the most constant throughout. As a hardnosed bookie/gangster, nicknamed "Fingers," Garcia shines, something that usually doesn't occur with him of late. He is good at this type of role and it was nice to see him sink his teeth into it. Even Sarah Michelle Gellar had her moments, although few, to show that maybe she can do more than Scooby-Doo and every year's Japanese horror remake. Mention also needs to go to Clark Gregg in a small, but funny role, and Emile Hirsch as Garcia's nephew, appearing to be a pawn to the plot, but in actuality becomes a role with payoff.

As far as the style went, I can't complain too much. The correlations between each thread is well conceived if not totally contrived to benefit the story. I enjoyed the transitions, especially at the start with multiple layers and progressions. I can't quite recall if that is the only part in which it was used, though. The music was also a help; very Explosions in the Sky-like, the score enhanced each moment it was used. In the end, the film just couldn't keep its bloated, heavy-handed script up. Even utilizing the four emotions as vignette titles (something used similarly in the superior The Dead Girl) was so obvious that it became laughable. Each instance made you know first thing that they will be the exact opposite of that title despite the lead thinking they were—happiness was really depression, pleasure was really regret, sorrow was really vanity, and love was desperation. Every emotion is more of a backhanded overview that is manipulated in order to serve the tale, rather than allowing the tale to serve the emotions that are supposed to be back-boning it.


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