This fifth feature from Drake Doremus has all the gathering power of an orchestra tuning up and then charging forth at full pelt to a crashing crescendo that resonates in the mind for days after you have watched. Doremus, the director of 2011 romance Like Crazy, has a real gift for teasing out the emotional undercurrents and the tentative rhythms between the actors in a short movie full of poised and nuanced performances.
Guy Pearce and Amy Ryan play Keith and Megan, a seemingly contented couple living with their teenage daughter in a comfortable, post-colonial house in verdant upstate New York. However, music teacher Keith is living a life of quiet desperation as he longs for the romance and creativity of his younger days playing in a rock band, penniless but happy in the big city. Megan, is no longer his soul mate and has become a dedicated homemaker who thrives on order and properness.
Keith is rehearsing for an all-important audition which will basically seal his destiny and finally end any chance of breaking free of his domestic trap and he, of course, plays that most mournful of instruments, the cello, the sound of which weaves in and out of Doremus’ film, perhaps a mite too intrusively.
When Keith learns that an exchange student from England is coming to stay, he initially reacts with bad grace and determines to tolerate rather than engage with the interloper. However, Sophie turns out to be rather more than he expects and Keith finds himself inflamed both artistically and romantically once again.
Despite her youth, Sophie is both wise and watchful but also given to spouting silly pop philosophy. She is played by Doremus regular Felicity Jones, a young performer with a real smouldering presence who holds her own with the always excellent Pearce, even if the scenes where they improvise their dialogue are not wholly convincing.
Breathe In is a thoughtful, well-made film that unfolds at a stately pace and which, with its musical motif, seems to be quietly suggesting that life is not an audition. ***