REVIEW: Breathe In

8 12 2014

Breathe InWriter/director Drake Doremus’ “Breathe In” begins with obvious symbols abounding: a carefully curated family photoshoot, a tower of Jenga blocks, the copy of Jane Eyre lying about.  If you cannot predict what will happen the Reynolds’ take in an English exchange student, Felicity Jones’ inquisitive but indeterminate Sophie, then your high school english teacher owes you an apology.

Doremus, thankfully, does not just lay all the sexual tension out on the table from the outset.  Instead, there is a gradual, more lifelike build in Sophie’s burgeoning attraction to her host father, Guy Pearce’s Keith.  This restraint provides some reason to stay attuned to the story, which is otherwise too clichéd to draw us into Sophie’s psychology.  (And thankfully, Jones looks quite a bit older than high school age, thus eliminating any vibes of their relationship resembling something dangerously close to statutory rape.)

Sophie’s tale, that of a British girl who comes to live with a family in New York for a semester only to find her peers superficial and self-involved, just never feels particularly compelling.  All these scenes really seem to highlight is that Sophie possesses a wisdom beyond her years, an attribute highly accentuated by another highly perspicacious performance from Felicity Jones.

Pearce gets a somewhat more interesting story to work with.  His Keith is a frustratedly immobile cellist who has never been able to achieve the recognition for which he yearns.  Instead of playing in a symphony, he is relegated to teaching at a high school in order to support his family.  Sophie offers him the opportunity to fulfill his desires, not his responsibilities, and his internal vacillation is much more fascinating because it carries those high stakes.  Unlike the rest of “Breathe In,” Pearce’s performance proves quite subtly effective.  C+2stars