Breathing, last years Austrian art house hit of the festivals gets its UK release this week. Breathing is about 19 year old Roman Kogler (Thomas Schubert), learning to adjust to normal life whilst serving a prison term in a young offenders detention centre, through a work release scheme. The only time Roman truly feels any relief from his troubles is when he is allowed to swim laps in the detention centre pool. After failing to hold down jobs, much to his social worker mentor Gerhard Liebmann chagrin Roman finds himself working in a mortuary service, helping transport corpses. It's an unpleasant job made all the more so by unhelpful, unsympathetic work colleagues. The worst of which is Rudolf Kienast played by Georg Friedrich. Rudolf is not slow to express his dislike for Roman and his back ground. When on a job they come across the corpse of a woman that has the same surname as he does and could be the right age to be his mother it opens up questions about himself, where he comes from and where his life his heading.

Breathing is an assured directorial debut from Karl Markovics a veteran Austrian actor who starred in the 2008 Foreign-Language Oscar winner The Counterfeiters. It is an excellent study of mortality, isolation, forgiveness and salvation. Using non professional teenager Thomas Schubert was a calculated risk that rewards the director with an outstanding portrayal of a young man tormented by his past and unable to see a future. Schubert himself won Best Actor at last years Sarajevo Film Festival for his performance. The film feels like a pressure cooker of emotions so much so that even the audience feel the relief of the pool scenes. The supporting cast all play their parts and bring to the characters their own emotional journeys which should feel oppressive but never are. Dealing with corpses will always provide material for dark humour and that is excellently handled here. There is also time for lighter moments, such as a delightful scene between Roman and a back packer he meets on a train home. An excellent character piece that hopefully will lead to more work from both Markovics and new found talent Schubert.