"Breaking In" Breaks Down Film Stereotypes
“Who best to get performance out of talent than talent?” Gabrielle Union asks the audience at the prescreening of her upcoming thriller, “Breaking In.” The film, directed by James McTeigue (V for Vendetta), is co-produced by Will Packer and the lead, Gabrielle Union.
Following the passing of her father, Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union) takes her son (Seth Carr) and daughter (Ajiona Alexus) on a weekend away from bustling Chicago to a high-tech vacation home in rural Wisconsin. What should be a nostalgic weekend, looking at old family relics and sharing stories with her children, quickly becomes a fight for survival. Shaun and her children discover they are not alone. Four men break into the house to find hidden money. With her children held captive inside, Shaun must find a way back into the fortress to save her family.
The film goes through the predictable ups-and-downs of any thriller, but what is nuanced about “Breaking In” is how it upends traditional narratives: a wealthy and happily married black family with children and a second home in Wisconsin. “Inclusion is bilucrative,” Gabrielle shared. “Breaking In” celebrates strong successful black families.
Shaun, an intentionally androgynous name, is by far the toughest character in the film. She uses wit, and when necessary, force to protect herself and her children. The family story lacks development, but moments of despair are rooted in unity and trust. In an intimate scene, Shaun empowers her daughter to protect her younger brother. The trespassing men are reluctant to see Shaun as a threat to their plan, but the children seldom question their mother’s ability.
The husband’s (Jason George) attempt to rescue his family, albeit futile in nature and short-lived, demonstrates his commitment. Shaun and her husband’s affection is limited to a loving phone call, but maybe that is the point. “So many people asked me if Shaun is a single mother,” Gabrielle shared with sigh.
“Breaking In” chisels at the stereotypes regarding the socioeconomic status and family structure of black American households. Films affect our cultural conversation and Americans have bought into a false narrative that all black families are broken and struggle financially.
The glue that makes a strong family is love and, coincidentally, love does not have a color. Shaun and her husband have dedicated their lives to each other and, as evident, would risk their own for their children’s safety.