Day three of the AFI Film Festival brought an American Independent film by director Drake Doremus (Like Crazy), who stuck to his formula of forbidden love with Breathe In. I really wanted to like this film; the cast is made up of industry vets like Guy Pierce and Amy Ryan and the overall tone seemed like a lofty love story, in the best way possible. Unfortunately, even a great cast and solid cinematography couldn’t combat against a weak script.
Pierce plays Keith Reynolds, a married high school music teacher who is unhappy with his life. His wife Megan, played by Amy Ryan, is overly domestic and oblivious to Keith’s subtextual feelings. The film begins just as the couple is getting ready to meet their houseguest, a foreign exchange student from London named Sophie, played by Felicity Jones. It has been arranged that Sophie will be attending a year of high school with the couple’s daughter Lauren (Mackenzie Davis). Immediately, there is sexual tension between Keith and Sophie, which is further fueled by her enrollment in Keith’s piano class.
It’s an artistic choice that works well, the color palette acts as a character itself.
Although obvious, Keith and Sophie deal with the tension in subtle ways; their flirtation builds for 3/4th of the movie until they finally kiss. The direction from Doremus during this climactic scene forgoes the obvious “crescendo,” instead of sexual exploitation, Sophie gently kisses Keith on the lips. This realism anchors the film, but even it’s authenticity doesn’t forgive its weak storyline. Keith’s character is too weak to sympathize with, Megan’s character is too naive to feel sorry for and there just isn’t enough background to feel anything for Sophie.
The cinematography in Breathe In is beautiful, seemingly shot in layers of ominous blue tones. It’s an artistic choice that works well, the color palette acts as a character itself. Doremus probably won’t strike gold again in this film as he did with Like Crazy, but for those who are into stories of tepid romance, Breathe In could be right for you.