Breaking Away (1979) 4.57/5 (5)


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Rating: The Good – 93.1
Genre: Sporting Drama
Duration: 101 mins
Director: Peter Yates
Stars: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern

“His legs. He’s shaving his legs!” Two futile tasks regarding the watching of this film are, firstly, to figure out why Dennis Christopher never went on to have the career he clearly deserved and, secondly, to watch it without smiling your way through every scene. The story focuses on four high school graduates from the working class part of a university town who must decide what they want to do with their lives while living in the shadow of the blow-in college kids who seem to have it all. Christopher plays one of these kids, an obsessed and ferociously talented cyclist who temporarily avoids this pressure by assuming an Italian identity in honour of the cycling team he worships, much to the despair of his no-nonsense father (played wonderfully by Paul Dooley). Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, and Jackie Earle Haley play the other kids who each have their own specific ways of confronting the same pressures of life while Barbara Barrie turns in a lovely performance as Christopher’s equally romantic mother.

From the honest and interested manner in which Yates approaches the dilemmas of the young men to the subtle poignancy of their’s and everyone else’s dialogue there is a profoundly touching quality to this film that is accentuated intuitively by the magnificent cast. However, to his credit Yates lets the more heartening elements to the story simmer deep within a series of fun-filled and exhilarating sequences so that when they boil over, they do so in all manner of unique and punctuating ways. From the breathtaking duel between Christopher and the Italian cycling team’s truck, the various confrontations between his friends and the college kids, to the ultimate showdown (which by the way is just about the most electrifying race sequence ever filmed!), Breaking Away is a breath of fresh air for the “coming-of-age” drama. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, Breaking Away is one of the most satisfying of all cinematic achievements and a film you will immediately fall in love with no matter what your taste in film is. It really is as simple as that!

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3 thoughts on “Breaking Away (1979)”

  1. I saw Breaking Away when it first came out and fell hopelessly in love with it. The cast is amazing. Paul Dooley, Barbara Barrie, and Jackie Earle Haley were already veterans and Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, And Hart Bochner were relative newbies at the time. They work really well together. The writing is crisp and funny and yet warm. You really like these people and you’re rooting for them throughout the film. Great movie!

    1. There’s a genuine magic to it all right. Think all involved were just bang in the zone across the entire production.

  2. This is one of the 100’s of movies I posted the day I launched this site. It has been revised, expanded on, and re-posted as a new review.

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