It's not far from King's Cross, the London stomping ground of Anthony Minghella's Breaking and Entering - a swatch of city inhabited by immigrants, prostitutes, crooks and Jude Law - to the neighborhood where Cate Blanchett got in that mess with her schoolboy lover and sourpuss Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal.
And it's not far from there to the section of London where the couples in Closer (half of one being Jude Law) grappled with their issues of lust and longing. All over Britain's increasingly multicultural capital, it seems, men and women are in the throes of connubial despair, recklessly reaching out to alluring strangers, or at least to someone other than their spouse.
Breaking and Entering, which marks writer-director Minghella's return to contemporary London and its populace after several big literary adaptations (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain), isn't simply about adultery - or people contemplating such things. It's about the angst, self-absorption and cultural turmoil behind the infidelities, about modern man's (and woman's) need to find connection, communication, comfort.
It is also more than a little about privilege and guilt - the guilt of the privileged, the educated, the artsy, as they get their offices swept up by Africans, their clothing mended by Serbs.
Law plays Will Francis, an architect heading a project that will do over whole blocks of shabby King's Cross, transforming it into something like a tony outdoor mall. He and his business partner, Sandy (Martin Freeman), have set up shop in the pulsing heart of the area, but almost the minute they unpack their fancy computers and designer furniture, someone breaks in through a skylight and scampers off with the stuff.
In fact, the architects are burgled repeatedly: replacement computers are plugged in, and swiftly stolen.
Will decides to stake out the place, parked in his Range Rover in the dead of night, looking to catch the culprit. Which is how he meets Oana (Vera Farmiga), a saucy Romanian hooker working the nabe, happy to share coffee and conversation between tricks.
And it is also how he meets Miro (Rafi Gavron), the acrobatic Bosnian boy working for a band of heistmen: Will watches the break-in and pursues the teen back to his apartment, a stark modern housing project (also seen in the final Helen Mirren Prime Suspect series) where he lives with his refugee mom, the sad and beautiful Amira, played by Juliette Binoche.
Next thing you know, Will and Amira are sneaking off to bed.
There's more to this soap: Will has a wife, the sad and beautiful Swedish-American Liv (Robin Wright Penn), and a daughter, Bea (Poppy Rogers), a 13-year-old with an eating disorder and symptoms of Asperger's - she's a sleepless, hyperactive, high-strung mess. Between the dad obsessed with work, the wife with her Scandinavian blues (she's seeing a shrink) and Bea, there is no calm, no harmony, in the Francis family.
Breaking and Entering is smart and smartly done, as it describes these inter-circling worlds - the well-to-do Brits and the newly deposited foreigners, trying to shake off their homeland tragedies and start anew.
But Minghella, who clearly knows and loves his city - and has spent much time musing about the changes wrought by the immigrant influx - suffers from the same compunction as his lead character, Will: He wants to smooth over the messy debris with a new, shiny structure, to tie everything up, to send everybody packing with uplift and possibility.
And so, as Will and Amira and Liv and Miro and Sandy and Bea and Oana (and Ray Winstone as a cop, and Juliet Stevenson - the star of Minghella's London-set debut feature, Truly, Madly, Deeply - as a therapist) crisscross King's Cross, Breaking and Entering heads toward a conclusion that is over-orchestrated and overly schematic. With broken glass littered across the floor.
Produced by Sydney Pollack, Timothy Bricknell and Anthony Minghella, written and directed by Minghella, photography by Benoit Delhomme, music by Gabriel Yared and Underworld, distributed by the Weinstein Co.
Running time: 2 hours.
Will Francis.......................... Jude Law
Liv Francis. . . Robin Wright Penn
Amira. . . Juliette Binoche
Oana. . . Vera Farmiga
Parent's guide: R (nudity, sex, profanity, adult themes)