Film Title: Breathe In
Director: Drake Doremus
Starring: Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones, Amy Ryan, Mackenzie Davis
Running Time: 95 min
Early on in the latest film from gifted tyro Drake Doremus, it is revealed that the young heroine, an English student visiting the US, is carrying a copy of Jane Eyre in her baggage. There are a few thematic connections between book and film.
Like poor Jane, Sophie (Felicity Jones) has been dispatched to a distant location where she catches the eye of a brooding older man. And Breathe In does, in its later crockery-smashing sequences, allow in a little vintage melodrama. But fans of the last collaboration between Jones and Doremus (the utterly charming Like Crazy) need not fear that the director has lost his bearings.
Breathe In is another beautifully acted, tastefully shot practical investigation of romantic politics. Yes, it’s a bit too pretty for its own good. Sure, the sleazy undercurrents occasionally threaten to knock the project off course. But Doremus is such a good teller of stories that the film proves hard to resist.
Sophie finds herself living with a superficially ideal family (always a dangerous notion) some short distance from New York City. Keith (Guy Pearce), the father, is a music teacher who still harbours ambitions to play in one the city’s big orchestras. His wife (Amy Ryan), manacled to their home, curls a lip when he suggests they move back into the city. Meanwhile, their daughter is facing up to the usual late-teen traumas.
With that opening scenario, few will be surprised when Keith and Sophie begin exchanging inappropriate glances. Withdrawn to an almost pathological degree, the young student is clearly coping with unrevealed issues from her previous life. Keith is so close to complete midlife embarrassment that he has begun whinging about his days as an aspiring rock star.
The near romance should be appallingly seedy, but the two leads bring such sincerity and shade to their performances that they positively demand our indulgence. Shooting in muted greys, making good use of ambient music, Doremus confirms that – like, say, Alan Rudolph – he may be one of those directors who, despite never securing a massive hit, will always manage to attract top-flight actors. He and Ms Jones should think about extending their collaboration into a trilogy.