Just a quick reminder that My Thoughts On… posts may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film in question, please skip down to the section titled Why Should You See This Film? where you will find no spoilers!
When a foreign exchange student arrives in a small upstate New York town, she challenges the dynamics of her host family’s relationships and alters their lives forever. (via IMDb)
What I Liked
- For anyone that knows me, it’s not particularly surprising that I enjoy films (or really any fiction) where an younger woman falls for an older man. Given my proclivity for older men, it’s not really a shock that I enjoy seeing the scenario play out on screen. I suspect that this is what drew me to Breathe In, given that this is the main crux of the storyline, but it’s been on my Netflix list for so long that I can’t actually remember! It’s a storyline that has been done to death really, but what I really liked about it in this case was that it did feel different, and slightly fresher than it often does. The relationship that grows between Keith and Sophie is quiet and understated; they connect on an intellectual level first, and their attraction to each other grows out of that. They barely touch each other for the first half of the film, and you only see them kissing once.
- I really, really like improvised films; I like the way they sound and I think if they are done well, they can really work. The director and screenwriter, Drake Doremus gave the actors the outline of the story, and then worked with them for several weeks while they improvised the dialogue. It gives the whole thing a beautifully natural feel, and I just love it.
- I am not a huge fan of Guy Pearce ordinarily, but I think he does very well here. He manages to imbue his performance with vulnerability, and you completely understand why he feels tempted by Sophie; he is in a very happy marriage, but you can see that he feels taken for granted by his wife. While it might be a cliché to suggest that his wife doesn’t understand him so he seeks comfort in the arms of a beautiful young woman, as the audience we are shown the reasons why he feels this way. The best part of his performance is at the very end of the film. In a mirror of the start of the film, the family is shown outside having photos taken, but this is after his affair with Sophie has come and gone, and the look on his face is heartbreaking. He’s trying to smile, but he isn’t quite fooling anyone, and his sadness is palpable.
- Felicity Jones also shines as Sophie. She’s obviously a very talented actress, and I already thought this going into the film, despite having never seen her anything other than an episode of Doctor Who! Sophie is not actually particularly likable; she’s arrogant and stand-offish. I wanted to shake her at the start and tell her to be more polite to this family who had taken her in! But behind the arrogance, you can tell that she is just feeling lonely, and her connection to Keith is how she manages to keep her head above water.
- Although I very much enjoyed the performances of Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones, it was actually Mackenzie Davies who stole the show for me here. She plays Lauren, the daughter of Keith and Megan, becoming a friend to Sophie as she shares her room with the exchange student. I really liked the way that Davies and Jones played the relationship; forced together by virtue of the fact that they are of similar ages, the hostility is there from the start, and only grows as it becomes clear that Lauren’s boyfriend has taken a fancy to Sophie. The betrayal that Lauren feels when she is the one to discover her father’s infidelity is totally convincing; she doesn’t have a histrionic reaction, but radiates a quiet hurt, and this is so much more effective.
- It’s only 98 minutes long. I know this might seem silly, but when you’ve been to the cinema and sat through a film at 2 hours and 16 minutes that could easily have lost 20 minutes (Captain America, I’m looking at you), you really value a film that gets in and out in just over an hour and a half. When I’m looking for films to watch on Netflix, one of the things I look at is the running time, and I’m much, much more likely to watch it if it comes in under 100 minutes.
What I Didn’t Like
- I did really enjoy Breathe In, but there’s something that stopping me from being over the top enthusiastic about it, and I can’t quite put my finger on what that might be. It might be the fact that the characters don’t feel completely developed; we aren’t really given much of a chance to get to know Megan, Keith’s wife, until the very end of the film, by which point it feels a little too late. Or it could be that it sometimes feels a little clumsy, particularly when a family friend goes out of his way to point out to Keith how attractive Sophie is, and how lucky/careful Keith should be. Or maybe it’s just that it feels as though it never quite takes off, despite all the promise. It all ends rather abruptly, without any explanation or proper denouement.
Why Should You See This Film
Although I’ve never seen Like Crazy, I understand that if you were a fan of that film, you’ll enjoy this one. It employs the same minimal, improvisational style, and Felicity Jones stars here as she did there. It’s definitely worth a watch if you enjoy improvisational films, because I think it’s particularly well done here. All of the main performances are particularly great, especially that of Mackenzie Davies, who plays Lauren, the teenage daughter. It’s only 98 minutes long, and it’s on Netflix, so I’d say there are definitely worse ways to spend an hour and a half.