Breathe In (2013)

breathe inDirected by: Drake Doremus

Written by: Drake Doremus & Ben York Jones

Sophie (Felicity Jones), an English foreign exchange student, comes to live with an affluent family in New York. A talented musician, she is immediately drawn to the man of the family, Keith Reynolds (Guy Pearce).

Keith is close to achieving his dream of leaving his job as a high school English teacher and becoming a full-time concert musician. His wife Megan (Amy Ryan) — whose passion in life, oddly enough, is cookie jars — seems spectacularly unsupportive of his music career. We sense that there is another side to the story, but what we see onscreen is her baffling indifference to his talent and aspirations. Also in the mix is their beautiful teenage daughter Lauren (Mackenzie Davis).

breathein

Predictably, passion is sparked between Keith and 18-year-old Sophie, and the movie keeps bombarding us with hints that they’re going to bang. (Oh, look! She’s coming in out of the rain, dripping wet, to find him home alone!) Although the attraction between Keith, a frustrated middle-aged man, and young Sophie is a cliche — and I was a bit infuriated by his stupidity — the scenes between them are well done, Guy Pearce really knocks it out of the ballpark with the tender, longing gazes. The movie also succeeds at exploring the parallel life transitions of middle age and adolescence. Guy is coping with a phase in which he faces a diminishing range of choices, and Sophie is struggling to be free to make her own choices.

This film offers strong performances across the board. Amy Ryan and Guy Pearce excel as a disengaged couple putting on a happy face for the world, and Felicity Jones is almost mesmerizing. Mackenzie Davis, as a privileged but troubled teen, is also wonderful. The acting and dialogue feel natural, and this is complimented by lovely cinematography– closely observing characters’ faces and hands and soft natural light–and gorgeous classical music.

On the other hand, several key plot twists are predictable, missing an opportunity to elevate this above a typical “middle aged man falls for young girl” scenario. And in the end, I was left wondering whether the movie really had anything to say.

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