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New Release Review - Breathe In

The arrival of a young English exchange student causes a middle-aged music teacher to re-evaluate his life.

Directed by: Drake Doremus
Starring: Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones, Amy Ryan, MacKenzie Davis, Kyle MacLachlan


Keith Reynolds (Pearce) is a music teacher in a local school in upstate New York. As a young man he dreamed of becoming a touring musician but put his aspirations on hold seventeen years ago when his wife Megan (Ryan) gave birth to their daughter Lauren (Davis). When Sophie (Jones), a piano playing English exchange student, arrives to spend the summer with the Reynolds, she is instantly attracted to Keith. After hearing her musical talents, Keith begins to fall for the young ingenue and questions his current life choices.
It may have been his fourth feature, but last year's 'Like Crazy' introduced most of us to the dubious talents of writer-director Doremus. That film was something of a unique experience, a truly terrible movie yet one I had a blast watching. Some of Doremus' authorial choices were baffling, particularly his use of Jones, a very talented actress who seems to enter a dead-eyed hypnotic state when working with this particular film-maker. Under Doremus' direction in 'Like Crazy', Jones came across as though she were playing the Glenn Close role in a teen reboot of 'Fatal Attraction'. Here, she reminded me of Rebecca de Mornay's psychotic live-in nanny from 'The Hand that Rocks the Cradle', constantly making "evil-eyes" out of context. If the Reynolds family possessed any pets, I would have feared for their longevity.
In my review of 'Like Crazy', I likened Doremus to Ed Wood, devoid of talent but full of heart. Ultimately, that's what made the film an enjoyable experience, despite its many glaring flaws. His follow-up, however, shows signs that he's maturing and has learned from his mistakes. 'Breathe In' is actually very well-handled from a visual sense. Gone is the awful 'Dawson's Creek' style improvised pretentious dialogue which rendered his previous film so unintentionally laughable, in fact there's very little dialogue here at all. It's a commendably quiet film which chooses to tell its story of bridled lust through glances and touches.
Lauren, the daughter discovering the dark side of human infatuation, reminded me a lot of the character played by Laura Dern in David Lynch's 'Blue Velvet', and the actress playing her, MacKenzie Davis, is almost a double for the young Dern. A cameo by Kyle MacLachlan (who now seems to have physically become David Lynch) makes me think this was intentional on Doremus' part.
I must admit I was on board with Keith and Sophie's quest to unite but that's mainly because I'm a male who, like most I imagine, happens to find Jones very attractive. The characters of Megan and Lauren are rendered as antagonists simply by their exclusion from most of the plot, a move which comes across as somewhat disingenuous and arguably misogynistic. For this reason I suspect female viewers will struggle with 'Breathe In' but for males over a certain age it works simply as a romantic exploitation movie, the male equivalent of a Nicholas Sparks novel.
Oh, and I won't be comparing Doremus to Ed Wood again.
6/10


Eric Hillis