‘Somewhere between growing up and settling down.’ If one of the aims of this site is to uncover movies that really deserve better recognition, then Peter Yates’s Breaking Away is just the kind of film we should be talking about.
Of course Yates directed Steve McQueen in Bullitt, an iconic moment in 60’s cinema history, but Breaking Away has really only achieved cult status and really deserves a wider audience after over thirty years. If you see this film as a teenager it stays with you your whole life.
Four working class friends in Bloomington, Indiana are unsure what to do with their lives but know they have little in common with the affluent university students who call them ‘cutters’ after the locals who work on the local limestone quarries.
This film is not so much about breaking away at the front of a cycle race as about breaking away from the small minded mentality that surrounds you.
One of the friends, Dave, is passionate about competitive cycling, so much so that he even tries to become Italian, adopting every aspect of Italian music and culture, much to the concern of his down-to-earth stonecutter father.
But this film is not so much about breaking away at the front of a cycle race as about breaking away from the small minded mentality that surrounds you when you are growing up. A limiting mentality that home-town people and as well as self obsessed university types are all prone to suffer from and a mentality that’s certainly not confined to Bloomington, Indiana.
You can be Italian if you want to be, in fact you can be whatever you want. All you need to do is to start doing it. The limitations of work, society and, yes even an academic environment, can all drag you down – if you let them.
If there is a secret to life it’s to be yourself, no matter how short, poor or disadvantaged you may be and‘Breaking Away’ is the ultimate teenage coming of age movie and is often hilariously funny without descending to gratuitous vulgarity.
If you haven’t caught it yet I won’t give away too many spoilers, but some classic scenes include Dave racing against some imported professional Italian cyclists who cheat their way to victory to leave him trailing in their wake. Then there’s the climactic final cycle race where all four friends take part in the Little 500 representing the local ‘cutters’ putting themselves up against the best that the university can offer. And this being a coming of age movie there are encounters with the opposite sex to negotiate too.
If you’re still growing up, or think you grew up a long time ago, this film will make you wonder if you really have. It’s never too late to break away.