Proficiently acted and directed, the new film by co-writer/director Drake Doremus, Breathe In (opening today), just exists. It's a slow burn, forbidden romantic tale meant to titillate, but it builds for too long, moving directly in line with our expectations for what we will assume will happen.
Doremus's last film, Like Crazy, was a powerful and moving long-distance love story that put both of its young stars - Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin - on the map. That was a story of two lovers that we rooted for and knew belonged together, despite time, distance and/or cultural spaces between them. In Breathe In, the tale is sort of inverted: It is again a love story, but this time the two have access to each other, despite us viewers knowing - or wanting - their love to flourish.
Felicity Jones again stars as a British student, Sophie, who this time comes to the States to be housed as a foreign exchange student. The home she occupies is that of the Reynolds, Keith (Guy Pearce) and his condescending wife Megan (Amy Ryan). Megan off-handedly insults Keith by calling his passion for music a "hobby," while Megan herself has a cookie jar obsession. They have a daughter roughly the same age as Sophie, Lauren (Mackenzie Davis).
Instantly, we sense there is some sort of sexual/romantic connection between the much younger Sophie and the struggling musician Keith, who also happens to teach music at Sophie's new school. The two slowly inch closer to one another and - yawn - fight the urge to act on it.
To make us feel like this is more acceptable, Keith's wife Megan is a two-dimensional cliche, made bearable by the wonderful Amy Ryan. We see her belittle Keith and the two are never shown as being intimate, or even any remnants of past happiness together, really. This breech makes it easier for us to understand why Keith may be drawn to Sophie.
Keith and Sophie do have a lot in common. Call them "soul mates" if you'd like. Despite their age and the fact that that Keith is a married man, they are drawn to one another. And it's a slow draw, consuming a great portion of the film.
But what does one expect when they let a gal like Felicity Jones bunk up at their house? The mesmerizing actress is actually in her thirties, here playing a teenager. You can't help but understand the attraction.
This Lolita-esque story teases and teases, before culminating in the two character's obvious and eventual hook-up. Director Drake Doremus does a good job of letting the actors' performances push the story forward, and both Pearce and Jones do remarkable work. It's just that everything is way too predictable and therefore, hard to really invest in.
We know there is no happy ending when two lovers meet under impossible circumstances. The way this one is presented to us, I'm not even sure if there relationship is something the viewer wants. One flaw is that we see Keith struggle with his emotions, whereas Sophie doesn't really seem too opposed to wrecking a marriage and a family.
Breathe In isn't all bad, but by the end, it's even more disappointing to know that it arrives at the exact spot you could have predicted it would, moments into it.
Run Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes, Rated R
Starring : Felicity Jones, Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan, Mackenzie Davis, Matthew Daddario
Co-Written & Directed by Drake Doremus (Like Crazy, Douchebag, Spooner)
Opens locally on Friday, March 28, 2014 (check for show times).
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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time