Breaking and Entering

“Breaking and Entering” is Anthony Minghella’s follow-up to his sophisticated and emotionally vibrant “Cold Mountain” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Those films helped Minghella overcome the reputation he’d gotten from “The English Patient,” which was that he was a cold, passionless filmmaker. Unfortunately, “Breaking and Entering” is a return to that style, somber and nicely acted but wholly uncompelling.

The plot is actually rife with interesting possibilities. It involves a London architect named Will (Jude Law) whose office is burglarized by a crew of Bosnian thieves who use the gymnastic prowess of one of their younger members to get in through the skylight and shut off the alarm system. The Bosnians haul off the company’s expensive new computers, and the nimble youth, a 15-year-old named Miro (Rafi Gavron), begins to feel a connection to Will by seeing the photos he has on his laptop.

Miro lives in a crime-ridden sector of London with his mother, Amira (Juliette Binoche), who runs a small tailoring business out of their home. She wants Miro to stay away from his no-good uncle, whom she knows is a career criminal.

In a nicer part of town, Will has a depressed Swedish girlfriend, Liv (Robin Wright Penn). They’ve been together 10 years and show no signs of getting married; their therapy sessions show serious problems between them. Liv has a 13-year-old autistic daughter, Bea (Poppy Rogers), who excels at gymnastics and practices day and night in lieu of sleep.

After the office is robbed a second time, Will and his business partner Sandy (Martin Freeman) perform a late-night stakeout of the place, thus accomplishing two things. One, they find out who Miro is and where he lives. Two, they meet a Russian hooker (Vera Farmiga) who patrols the neighborhood nightly.

The story (written by Minghella, too, his first non-adapted screenplay in 15 years) brings all of these figures together in various ways, some of which strain believability. Also somewhat incredible (as in, not credible) is the film’s conclusion, which stretches the truth and the law. There comes a point where I do not believe these characters would do these things.

There is also a point where I just don’t care that much. Sadly, that point lasts for most of the film. Jude Law’s tidy politeness, Robin Wright Penn’s sadness, and Juliette Binoche’s vulnerability come through clearly — they are all talented actors — yet the whole thing is so dour and emotionally flat that it resists being liked. Minghella seems intent on making Merchant-Ivory films now, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

C (2 hrs.; R, scattered harsh profanity, brief strong sexuality, a little nudity.)