Breakfast On Pluto


Reviewed by: Richard Mellor

Breakfast On Pluto
"Breakfast On Pluto's tone is a discomforting mixture of comedy and tragedy."

In dreams our minds, uncensored by logic, wander wherever they wish. Even in a wilder place, could a mind have wandered so far as to imagine a scene, featuring a punch up between dancing Wombles, gaggles of excited children and a perturbed transvestite?

It is surprising to find Neil Jordan, director of Prozac-defying classics, such as Michael Collins and The Crying Game, making this jovial, light-hearted film. But, like the cross-dressing hero he presents, letting his hair down seems to do him the world of good.

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Based on a novel by Patrick McCabe, Breakfast On Pluto documents the strange life of Patrick Braden (Cillian Murphy). Dumped as a baby in a small town near the Irish border, he grows up unsure of his mother's location or his father's identity. Discovering he feels happier in women's clothes, he renames himself Kitten and sets off for London in the late Sixties, in pursuit of his mysterious mum. As he becomes Kitten, so Irish politics become increasingly volatile and his own troubles mirror the escalating tensions around him.

While following Patrick's escape to a happier identity, the film provides a constant flow of hilarious scenes. As well as the aforementioned Womble ruckus, there is a sarcastic narration by a pair of robins, a squabbling rock band and Patrick's all-too-detailed imaginings of his own conception. Jordan accompanies the breathless chapter sequence of McCabe's book with a continuous and fabulously wide-ranging soundtrack and allows the film to rattle along at a furious pace. Even the tragic death of Down's syndrome sufferer Lawrence (Seamus Reilly) cannot dampen the mood. Patrick cheekily labels the event "very, very serious", although the jokes soon return with a vengeance.

Although he tries to ignore the sobering events taking place in the streets, McCabe cannot. Patrick's visit to London results in various failed relationships and a growing desperation at the faltering search for his mother - "the phantom lady". Meanwhile, the Irish troubles creep ever closer. His childhood friend Irwin (Laurence Kinlan) is affected and involved, while a nightclub bomb lands Patrick in the slammer on suspicion of terrorism. Despite attempts to lament his torn tights and flirt with the interrogators, a real sadness affects Patrick's demeanour as he and his homeland struggle to fix their identities.

Despite the bombings and killings, politics is treated glibly. McCabe and Jordan devote their attention to the uncovering of Kitten and the characters who help him/her along. Under such scrutiny, the fabulous Murphy is vulnerable, wry, utterly charming. He is also distinct from previous roles in Batman Begins and 28 Days Later. Liam Neeson seems a tad too soft as the guilty Father Bernard, but the film's other co-stars put in stirring performances, particularly Bryan Ferry's violent stranger, Gavin Friday's beleaguered singer and Jordan acolyte Stephen Rea's lonely and loveable magician.

With this see-saw between happy and sad, Breakfast On Pluto's tone is a discomforting mixture of comedy and tragedy. Ultimately, in a wise move, Jordan allows youthful energy to win the day. As a director, more associated with weightier material, he performs wonders in adapting a difficult and highly interpretative book to the screen. Perhaps the story lacks precision, or a firmer, final point; perhaps it glosses over serious moments in Irish history once too often. But these are McCabe's faults, not Jordan's.

He has morphed a quirky novel into an enthralling, tender and, crucially, fun piece of cinema. Indeed, he changes guise more easily than his protagonist, although only one of them has to deal with violent Wombles.

Reviewed on: 30 Nov 2005
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An Irish transvestite, searching for the mother who abandoned him, is caught up in terrorist violence and hilarious goings on in London.
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Read more Breakfast On Pluto reviews:

Chris ****
Anton Bitel ***1/2

Director: Neil Jordan

Writer: Neil Jordan, based on the novel by Patrick McCabe

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Stephen Rea, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson, Eva Birthistle, Liam Cunningham, Bryan Ferry, Gavin Friday, Ian Hart, Laurence Kinlan, Ruth McCabe, Ruth Negga, Steven Waddington, Mary Coughlan, Conor McEvoy, Charlene McKenna, Seamus Reilly, Pet

Year: 2005

Runtime: 135 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Ireland/UK


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The Crying Game