Breathe In from Writer Loves Movies

So…the next guest post comes from the awesome writing styles of Natalie over at Writer Loves Movies; also the first blog that I wrote a guest review for. This following write up is great and concerns the 2013 Sundance premiered film ‘Breathe In’. The review is great like I said and is as delicate and well handled as this movie apparently is. She’s made me want to watch it now!

Check out more reviews marked out of five stars at Writer Loves Movies.


In 2011 director Drake Doremus gave us a beautiful drama about a long distance relationship thwarted by an overstayed visa. Like Crazy’s appeal resulted from the naturalistic style Doremus elicited through improvised performances and lead actress Felicity Jones took home the Sundance Festival’s Special Jury Prize.

In 2013 Doremus followed up Like Crazy with Breathe In, another naturalistic drama with Felicity Jones in the leading female role. This time the drama follows an English exchange student, Sophie (Felicity Jones), who takes up residence with an American family headed by father and music teacher, Keith (Guy Pearce). It’s not long before Sophie and Keith are drawn to each other. Keith’s wife frequently belittles his passion for music and desire to quit teaching for an orchestral seat, while Sophie is damaged by the death of her music-loving uncle. On paper it’s a fairly predictable plot but Breathe In has a mesmeric quality that comes from its naturalistic performances and Doremus’ commitment to atmosphere.

During the film’s early moments, Sophie is seen reading Jane Eyre. It’s a book Breathe In draws on heavily for its potent sexual tension. Doremus allows the relationship between Sophie and Keith to develop gradually, encompassing doubts and self-restraint as well as indulgence and passion. Breathe In eschews sex scenes and nudity in favour of burning looks, a surreptitious hand on the arm and nervous fingers intertwined. This somewhat old-fashioned approach feels refreshing and modern in the hands of Doremus whose palette of washed out blues and greys suffuses his film with despair while its searing tension rips and claws at your heart.

Music takes on a powerful role here too. Sophie’s first piano performance plays out as both a seduction and furious resistance to Keith’s authoritarianism. Later, there’s an almost operatic climax as the film’s various strands pull together in a cataclysmic conclusion.

Doremus and co-writer Ben York Jones craft their characters with depth and complexity. Nothing is clear cut and it’s difficult to take sides. Keith is a conflicted father and husband. Sophie’s youth and love for music offer him a route back in time, an opportunity to start afresh, but it’s hard for us to root for him. We’re also aware that Keith is acting foolishly and represents a dangerous love interest to Sophie who is vulnerable in spite of her intelligence and free spirit. The lines are further blurred by Pearce’s impeccable performance that stings with pain and regret.

His burgeoning chemistry with Sophie feels very natural – it’s an alluring by-product of improvisation – as their conversations develop through varying degrees of awkwardness. But Breathe In is an intimate film where the locked gaze of Jones and Pearce says as much as the delicate, tentative dialogue.

Keith and Sophie’s relationship plays out in contrast to the desperate cries for attention that Keith’s daughter, Lauren (Mackenzie Davis), makes of despicable, womanising boyfriend Aaron (Matthew Daddario). Do her reckless actions result from Keith’s emotionally absent parenting style? And how differently should we judge Keith’s own infidelity? Keith’s wife, Megan (Amy Ryan), watches Sophie with suspicion while she feels her husband slipping away. Is Megan aware of her own role in the marital breakdown? Breathe In’s solitary omission is Megan’s under-explored character.

Breathe In is not a formula romance. It’s an intricate, poignant exploration of adultery, love and regret. With Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones both at their best, Breathe In cements Drake Doremus as the rising star of naturalistic drama.

Verdict: 4.5 stars


2 thoughts on “Breathe In from Writer Loves Movies

  1. Great review. I agree – I liked this very much. The central plight of the loss and awakening of passion rubbing up against the constraints of life were well depicted. Fine performances too.

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