Written and directed by Drake Doremus, ‘Breathe In’ muses over female lead Sophie (Felicity Jones), a British foreign exchange student with a passion for music, who moves in with a family in suburban New York. To the non-inquisitive eye, head of this family Keith (Guy Pearce) is living an idyllic existence with his loving wife and daughter, teaching piano as a day job whilst enjoying his cellist duties for a local orchestra. It soon appears that Keith is in mourning of his lost youth, having been forced to settle down too soon for the sake of his child. He stashes old band photographs in his desk and yearns for a chance to break free from his humdrum routine. So when Sophie, an attractive young musician enters the fray, he is inspired to pursue his previously disregarded ambitions.
This is artistically shot, a dulled watercolour palette washing over us to create a shadowed setting, shrouded by missed opportunities, which seems separated from the real world. The orchestral soundtrack compliments the visuals, and is apt yet predictable given the subject matter and the vocations of our leads. The longing stare is used a little too frequently as a suspense builder as Keith and Sophie grow closer, and having adoringly studied Jones previously in Like Crazy, it poses the question if director Doremus himself wants to be the romantic male lead alongside the pale skinned beauty. In one scene, the two sit side-by-side playing the piano, and the direction felt all too obvious, and remarkably similar to a moment in Park Chan-Wook’s psychological take on the dysfunctional, Stoker, but unfortunately carried off with less conviction.
Guy Pearce certainly looks the part as the middle-aged family man, wishing he was twenty years younger again, and he and Jones do what they can with a rather stilted script. An on-screen chemistry slowly presents itself but the surrounding plot lacks originality, fizzling out after the preliminary ‘will they, won’t they?’ opening third. Amy Ryan puts in a fine turn as Keith’s wife, Megan, satisfied with the quiet uninteresting lifestyle, collecting cookie jars and attending grown-up dinner parties, or gatherings. Mackenzie Davis fits in well as the OC-esque spoilt teenager, drinking too much and falling for the wrong boys. Her shallowness is a nice contrast with Sophie’s deeper, mysterious personality but Felicity Jones really only has to look good on camera for the most part and with Drake Doremus pulling the strings, she can do no wrong.
‘Breathe In’ feels very personal, and is gift-wrapped in pretty aesthetics. Well acted and dressed up in striking cinematography, it challenges the idealistic family set-up, presenting the conflict and fine lines between a middle aged man’s fantasy and reality, whilst also commenting on the importance of age gaps in relationships. It touches upon these topics and shows ambition, much like the central character, but resumes normality when the initial excitement runs out too soon.