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Sundance '13 Review: BREATHE IN Is Compelling But Familiar

Breathe In

Director: Drake Doremus

Screenwriters: Drake Doremus, Ben York Jones

Cast: Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones, Amy Ryan, Mackenzie Davis

Official Synopsis: As summer turns to fall, music teacher Keith Reynolds privately reminisces about his days as a starving artist in the city. While his wife, Megan, and daughter, Lauren, look forward to Lauren’s final year of high school, Keith clings to those evenings he’s asked to sub as a cellist with a prestigious Manhattan symphony. When Megan decides the family should host foreign exchange student Sophie, the British high school senior soon rekindles an impetuous aspect of Keith’s personality.

Performances

Felicity Jones burst onto the scene with Doremus' previous film, Like Crazy, and it's clear that the two have a great working relationship because she gives another solid performance here. While she isn't allowed to be the firecracker of emotion that her Crazy character was (this character doesn't have that personality), it was nice to see that Jones can deliver in a role that is quieter and more reserved. She lets her fingers do a lot of the talking, showing off her piano skills in a terrific sequence that makes her look like a female Eddie Van Halen of the ivories. Guy Pearce does some of his best dramatic work in years as Keith, the family patriarch who finds Jones' character - the new British exchange student living with his family - a creative and romantic inspiration. It's hard to sympathize with him because his character is sort of an ass, and I'm not saying his behavior is justifiable, but the way his wife (the always-stellar Amy Ryan) constantly trivializes his passion for playing music makes it at least easy to see where he's coming from. Mackenzie Davis does a good job as the daughter of the family who is initially welcoming of Jones' character but ultimately discovers her secret.

Story and Direction

We've seen the story of a man experiencing a midlife crisis and attempting to recapture his youth (or gain inspiration) by hooking up with a much younger woman so many times on screen that it's become a cliche. But even in this familiar genre, Doremus keeps things interesting and adds his own style to the proceedings. A Manhattan dance club sequence was a blast of energy into a film mostly comprised of longing looks and quiet smiles, and he and co-writer Ben York Jones know how to stretch the sexual tension to its absolute breaking point. There are some spellbinding moments accompanied by a terrific classical music score (mostly piano and cello), but as much as I was hooked into the story and characterizations the whole time, the movie falls into incredibly predictable territory in its third act. When the film loses its luster, it becomes just a conventional forbidden love story, but strong work from the cast and director make this one worth seeing despite these flaws.

Similiar To

It's like the Jason Bateman segments of Juno stretched out into a whole movie.

Chances You'll See It In Theaters

As with Like Crazy, it could take a while for this one to finally make it to theaters, but I think you'll get a chance to check it out if you're interested.

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