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Breakwater (2020)
Book Reviews

Breakwater (2020)

A beautiful, aching look at difficult friendships among ever-changing perspectives and expectations.

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People love comfort. They love it so much they’re willing to put their dreams on hold in order to remain in that convenience, the ease of it. But change is inevitable and resistance only makes it that much harder to embrace the familiar while you can. Katriona Chapman, comic artist/illustrator creator of graphic novels Follow Me In and KatZine, shares a beautiful message in Breakwater, her latest release about breaking past comfort zones and rekindling dreams.

For years, Chris has worked at the Breakwater Picture House. Her life is simple and full of routines – every day after work, she heads to her apartment alone and watches TV shows. She’s responsible and doesn’t step outside the line, either at work or in her life. One day, a new person starts at the cinema – Daniel – and he remarks on how simple everything at the cinema is. But that’s the life Chris enjoys – she doesn’t have to spend any more time thinking about anything at all.

Daniel gets along easily with everyone at work. Chris shows him the older art deco ballroom upstairs, permanently frozen in time, with ticket stubs from the 80s and 90s littering the floor. When Chris is verbally abused by a customer, Daniel rushes to her aid and suggests she shake off the experience by going out with him for a drink. Over time, they hang out more and more. With each encounter, Daniel slowly revives Chris and breaks through her rut, encouraging her to continue her social work courses.

But their relationship isn’t perfect, because when are they ever? After several months, Chris discovers there’s another side to Daniel. He shows up late for work, seems despondent after getting back together with an ex, and his nasty little habits belies the real problem: he has borderline personality disorder. As long as he stays on the meds, Daniel can function. But like most disorders, when people start to feel better, they tend to go off their meds. Cue spiraling cycle.

Chapman’s illustrations are softly shaded without harsh lines, which really shows the weariness in her characters’ expressions. Shadows play a critical role into the storyline, too, giving you something beautiful to look at, yet blanketing what’s really going on underneath. The picturesque background of the south coast of England provides a reality that many people have to deal with: that we all tend to hide things or abandon them and let them fall to ruin without even noticing.

It’s heartbreaking how Chris has to rediscover herself through her friend’s breakdown. Katriona Chapman does a wonderful job showcasing the mundanity of life through the day in and day out of our routines, with vacations serving as precious little breaks. At first glance, Breakwater can appear complacent, almost banal, on the surface, but once you get past its hardened exterior to see what lies behind, you’ll find the interior is as beautiful as the former art deco ballroom of the theater.

About the Author: Evelyn Wong