In the 2011 film Like Crazy, writer/director Drake Doremus and co-writer Ben York Jones told the story of a couple hopelessly in love — the man American, the woman British — separated by the laws of U.S. immigration. In their latest film, Breathe In, they give us another couple — this one in a relationship teetering on the edge of love and routine — separated by the laws of moving a beautiful British exchange student into your house for a semester.
Keith Reynolds (Guy Pearce) is a high school music teacher and part-time symphony cellist married to Megan (Amy Ryan), a well-meaning but smothering wife who blithely puts down his musical ambitions. He reflects fondly on his days in a rock band and wants to give up teaching for a full-time seat with an area symphony. She wonders how the bills will get paid.
Meanwhile, she has enrolled the family in a program to host a high school exchange student, something Keith is against — until Sophie (Felicity Jones) walks through the door. That she’s conveniently 18 and just happens to be a pianist talented far beyond her years makes her all the more irresistible.
Needless to say, the presence of Sophie — who also has a fractious relationship with Keith and Megan’s high school-age daughter, Lauren (Mackenzie Davis) — turns the already cloudy household atmosphere downright poisonous.
Doremus’ beautifully shot, naturalistic style means there are no soap-opera hysterics, and he gets strong performances from all involved, especially Pearce as a man who fears sinking into middle-age mediocrity. But it’s hard to get over the fact that Jones, who was born in 1983, is far too old to play a high school student.
On top of that, the third act feels forced, as if Doremus and Jones couldn’t quite figure out how to get the characters from point A to point B. For a film that begins with so much promise and has so much going for it, it’s a shame that Breathe In ends up gasping for air.
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