The Air I Breathe

December 13th, 2007


The Air I Breathe

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Still of Emile Hirsch in The Air I BreatheStill of Forest Whitaker in The Air I BreatheSheila Kelley at event of The Air I BreatheStill of Forest Whitaker in The Air I BreatheStill of Andy Garcia in The Air I BreatheStill of Brendan Fraser and Sarah Michelle Gellar in The Air I Breathe

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.

Release Year: 2007

Rating: 7.0/10 (23,894 voted)

Critic's Score: 37/100

Director: Jieho Lee

Stars: Brendan Fraser, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Andy Garcia

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.

Writers: Jieho Lee, Bob DeRosa

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

Taglines: Happiness. Sorrow. Pleasure. Love.


Official Website: Official site | Official site [United States] |

Release Date: 13 December 2007

Filming Locations: Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico

Box Office Details

Budget: $10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $19,487 (USA) (27 January 2008) (7 Screens)

Gross: $884,503 (Worldwide) (6 June 2008)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

When Brendan Fraser is looking at pictures of the famous pop star Trysta played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, real magazine photos of Sarah Michelle Gellar were used.

Factual errors: When Fingers wants Pleasure to listen to some music, the remote doesn't belong to this type of B&O stereo. This stereo always uses a beolink 1000 remote.

[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?

User Review

Unique, thoughtful, and stunning -- a winner

Rating: 9/10

The Air I Breathe is stunning in many ways. It should be established right from the start that this is not a movie which allows you to check your brain at the door. It demands attention and thought. Director Jieho Lee and co-writer Bob DeRosa have crafted an intriguing work which leaves more questions than answers. And, after all, that is what art should aspire to do.

The film is based on a Chinese proverb which says that life consists of four emotions: Happiness, Pleasure, Sorrow, and Love. To be whole one must experience each emotion, and by doing so we are interconnected with all other human beings. The film itself is structured in the same fashion, with each of four segments focusing on those ideas. The lead actors portray those emotions one by one. Forest Whitaker is Happiness, Brendan Fraser is Pleasure, Sarah Michelle Gellar is Sorrow, and Kevin Bacon is Love. They anchor the four segments of the film, while the rest of the magnificent ensemble cast weaves in and out of the narrative.

The idea is somewhat fuzzy at first. This is an unconventional story with a similarly unique style. Unlike most films, the major characters don't really have major arcs in story line or performance. While some may find a couple of the actors a bit deadpan, they pretty much are solid throughout while consistent in their characterizations. Whitaker and Fraser especially fit that description. Both are quite stoic in their roles, but that's what the story demands. Sarah Michelle Gellar may be the exception. She is the one who has to display a wide range of emotions, more than the others. Her character is quite tortured and goes through a lot emotionally and physically. Gellar is a very brave actress who took risks and put her heart and soul into it. She is sure to surprise many people. Bacon is a delight and is perfectly cast as a would-be hero. Andy Garcia is a chilling and devilish nemesis throughout, while Emile Hirsch provides some comic relief in his brief appearance.

The script is filled with poetic statements, hearkening back to the Chinese proverb on which the story is based. Each segment's main character provides voice-over. And while the language is somewhat oblique, the dialogue is quite blunt and to the point.

Visually it is breathtaking, with broad sweeping images interspersed with numerous gritty close-ups of tragedy. The Air I Breathe has the look of a big budget film, although it is not. Watch for some fascinating visual effects. Hand-held with close-ups is used for some of the more chilling parts and creates tension. Hitchcock would be proud.

Surprises occur at every step of the way. One of the most startling aspects of this film is that there are moments when one may think, "No, that won't happen." And then it does. It's hard to watch at times and quite violent. There's sadness and tension. But there is also an amazingly clever use of humor in the film, and that is perhaps what is most surprising. But that's what life is. The soundtrack plays a major role in this movie, as if another character. It has an Asian feel, not just because of the filmmaker's background but because the film is based on that Chinese proverb. It was quite haunting.

The Air I Breathe is, at its heart, a character piece which follows a general theme. Seems simple. On the face of it, it plays out like a crime drama. But there's more to it, and it takes patience and thought to get to the point of it. Not everyone will be able to do that. But it is definitely worth the effort.


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