Warning: Contains obvious Spoilers.
After waiting for an unimaginably long time, I finally got to watch Drake Doremus’ new masterpiece. My heart is torn apart. And that barely scrapes the tip of the iceberg.
Firstly, I’m unsure if this movie can only be termed as a family drama or a romance gone awry or an unconventional love story which was supposed to beat the odds. You can say it was a delightful combination of them all. Remember when they said Breathe In was the darker cousin of Like Crazy (the Drake Doremus movie that won at The Sundance Film Festival), well that really sums up everything. Breathe In is a whole different world from Like Crazy but one that you’ll soon grow to inhabit and familiarize yourself with as the movie progresses. If you’re obsessive like me and have watched Like Crazy that many times as I have, I suppose nothing can surpass the sheer untraditional beauty and brilliance that movie depicted. But here I am, watching Breathe In over and over and trying to tell myself that it’s okay, maybe something better than Like Crazy has come along. Maybe, it’s time to love this movie, as I did Like Crazy. Can I, in my heart find place for both of them? After all they’re both deeply tragic in their own ways and just my nature of torturous love.
Let’s get you in on the plot first. Felicity Jones plays Sophie, an 18 year old exchange student from UK who moves in with the Reynolds family in the outskirts of Manhattan. What follows next is an emotional upheaval when Sophie delicately crosses lines and comes close to destroying Megan Reynolds’ (Amy Ryan) marriage and household by drawing Keith (Guy Pearce), her husband into a romance unimaginable on so many levels. Although, the lead pair Keith and Sophie put up stellar performances, Mackenzie Davis who plays Lauren, Keith’s 18 year old daughter, rightly plays the true victim to all the turn of events.
Right from the start where this perfectly happy family is getting a photoshoot done in their front lawn, somehow trying to smile for the camera, to the end where they’re doing it again, Breathe In will give you so much to think about what went on in between. The narrative is interspersed with few dialogues and allows the audience to grasp the interactions and relationships by their own will. The steady camera work and natural lighting, the dreamy poise and repeated flashes of their house, the piano, the window where you can see the rain fall, the swings in their lawn will get imprinted on your mind.
What holds this movie together is the stupendous acting skills of Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones even though they don’t have that many dialogues. Why and how they fall in love with each other can be debated at length and there still won’t be a conclusion that would be acceptable to all. Almost all the aspects have been slightly touched in the movie in some scene or the other about what it was that created this attraction between a married man and a teenager. You can say that it was Sophie’s esoteric demeanor that caused Keith to look at her differently. Or his crave for the youthfulness in life, maybe her fierce spontaneity and belief that you should choose to do something and not just do it because you can. Or even that she was a piano prodigy which was beyond anything Keith had seen. His interest in her could’ve also been sparked for sexual reasons like how his friend cheekily points out, but even that will not hold true if you consider that their physical relationship never went beyond a kiss. It was more about how Sophie appeased the part of him that his wife, his daughter actually couldn’t ever acknowledge. How she wanted to make him feel free while his family only held him down. His job as a music teacher, he felt was never something he was carved out for, about which his wife constantly jibed at him. Not knowing that her lack of interest in that area of his life, his music, was ultimately what was ruining everything. I still can’t get over how she asks him one night about Sophie’s music abilities and he lies so easily.
Sophie is a mature and calm girl who knows how she would like to live her life. She isn’t easily swayed which we realize when she goes out with Aaron, a classmate only trying to get her to sleep with him after a drunken night at a club in New York. Sophie knows that Aaron was Lauren’s first and would never try to hurt Lauren like that. However, if you look at this ironically, she is romancing Lauren’s dad and as if that wouldn’t affect Lauren at all. So you see, Sophie and Keith’s relationship was unjustifiable from the start. That they were doomed from the very start never failed to stop them from realizing how much comfort and reassurance they gained from each other’s company. It only pushed them to an affair and a middle of the night decision to elope. Like Sophie termed it, just get in the car and drive and let’s see where it takes us. While all that is extremely alluring and romantically adventurous and you would absolutely love the thrill when they finally escaped from their lives and responsibilities, the movie turns into a nightmare right in the last fifteen minutes. You feel your heartbeat race, hoping against hope that somehow, maybe for some reason the decisions made by each character could be reversed, altered or abandoned altogether. But alas, a family drama it is and it’s absolutely predictable (and not much Spoiler material) that something major happens to give Keith a snap back to reality and the role he’s expected to play in his family. The crescendo music montage in those last few minutes is unforgettable. If that doesn’t feel like your heart being ripped out from your chest, I don’t know what else does.
Breathe In is a compelling and raw movie showing us the vulnerabilities and intricate lives of all three members in the family. Just like how you felt you, the audience was the eavesdropper in Like Crazy, in Breathe In, Felicity Jones is somehow the eavesdropper in this family’s personal matters. On many accounts, she can be termed as the insidious villain and also the grim truth everyone had their eyes shut against. She can be accused of being ungrateful for bringing the warm welcome she received reduced to insecurities and ultimately hate. Or you can pretend to be one of the people in that affair and see how beautiful life can actually be when you’re with the right person, no matter how old they are or what is right by societal norms. When you find a love that shakes the very core of your existence, nothing else can matter much. When you think on those grounds, you can barely term those instances as “cheating” and mind you there is nothing that I could despise more than the act of betraying your partner with the cheap act of cheating on them. Then again, the movie is a plethora of melancholy emotions and untold feelings, lingering gazes and beautifully raw depictions of unrequited love. When there’s so much going on, all you can do is close your eyes and breathe in.
P.S: The music score by Dustin O’Halloran continues to enthrall and give a deep rendition to a fairly simple storyline. Had it not been for that, Breathe In could never be what it is to me now. Though I’m a Felicity Jones fangirl, Guy Pearce clearly was a great match and his brilliant acting continues to please.
You can read my review of Like Crazy, here.