‘Breathe In’: A love equation that doesn’t add up
A two-star review of “Breathe In,” starring Felicity Jones and Guy Pearce in a (sort of) love story.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘Breathe In,’ with Felicity Jones, Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan, Mackenzie Davis. Directed by Drake Doremus, from a screenplay by Doremus and Ben York Jones. 97 minutes. Rated R for some language. Sundance Cinemas.
A breathy tale of a not-quite love affair, Drake Doremus’ “Breathe In” is yet another skillfully acted indie drama that’s never quite good enough to be memorable. Sophie (Felicity Jones) is a British exchange student, living for a high-school semester in upstate New York with the Reynolds family: dad Keith (Guy Pearce), mom Megan (Amy Ryan), teen daughter Lauren (Mackenzie Davis). Keith, a skilled musician unhappy with his life as a high-school piano teacher, is quickly drawn to moody, lovely Sophie, herself a gifted pianist. She teaches him to relax and breathe before a stressful audition. He, gazing at her in the moody dimness of an oh-so-convenient power failure while they’re alone in the house, says, “You don’t seem as young as you are.” Trouble, of the unconsummated variety, ensues.
It’s hard to get an audience to care much about whether a 40-something man can have his dreams fulfilled with a teenager whose wide-eyed gazes supposedly convey that she truly understands him as an artist, particularly with a script this mushy. (It’s carefully spelled out, though, that Sophie is 18.) Pearce’s thoughtfully intense performance presents Keith as a decent fellow trapped in a life he doesn’t want, who sees in Sophie’s eyes a lighthouse on another shore. But these two characters, neither of whom says much beyond banalities, aren’t developed enough for us to understand exactly what this relationship is supposed to be, who these people are, whether they really know what they’re doing. Likewise, Ryan’s character is a cookie-jar-collecting, scrapbooking cipher; it’s not at all clear why these two are still married. Only Davis, who resembles the young Laura Dern, finds something fresh in her role; she’s got a wiggly, offhand quality that feels very true to her 18-year-old character.
Doremus, who previously showcased Jones in “Like Crazy,” goes for a naturalistic look here that’s sometimes lovely (quiet still lifes of rooms in the family’s home) and sometimes, with its perpetually moving camera making abrupt back-and-forths during conversation, distracting. Ultimately, this feels like a rough draft of a movie, waiting to be filled in.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org