And Breathe Normally is an entrancing tale of two people, each in their own form of peril, who come to a crossroads.

The Icelandic drama follows a financially stretched single mother, Lara (Kristín Thóra Haraldsdóttir), whose ticket out of poverty arrives when she's offered a job as a border patrol officer. Eager to impress on her first day, she spots a fake passport – and causes Adja (Babetida Sadjo), a refugee from Guinea-Bissau, to be separated from her family. Later, Lara and Adja cross paths again, and strike up an unlikely bond.

An affecting humanity radiates on screen as Lara and Adja discover the surprising amount they have in common, but director Isold Uggadottir manages to keep the narrative away from melodrama or over-sentimentality. Her direction keeps a careful distance, but is forgiving and empathetic to her struggling characters.

The landscapes of Iceland are captured beautifully, but it's ultimately the people in this story who carry the film home. Haraldsdóttir and Sadjo's performances are enthralling, particularly as Lara and Adja discover the ways in which they can help each other – and the film's hopeful finish is a rare deep breath, the kind that offers an uplifting reprieve from the turmoil of our current climate.

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Cast:

Kristín Thóra Haraldsdóttir, Babetida Sadjo, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson

Director:

Ísold Uggadóttir

Running Time:

100 minutes

Rating:

M (drug references)

Verdict:

A poetic delight.

When:

And Breathe Normally

screens again today, 11.30am, at Academy Cinema; and Sunday, 3.45pm, at Academy Cinema