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The Music Lovers

MOVIE REVIEW
Breathe In (2013)

Breathe-in-guy-pearce-felicity-jones
2013 Sundance Film Festival

Male midlife crises don't come much more photogenic and tastefully shot than the one endured by music teacher Keith (Guy Pearce) in Drake Doremus's "Breathe In," a film of quiet pastoral anguish that almost entirely does without the loud urban variety. Barring a certain amount of crockery damage and tearful car-driving toward the end, Mr. Doremus keeps the nature of Keith's wandering eye nicely understated, a 17-year itch with roots lying further back than the audience can see. In the absence of explanatory shouting, the air is filled instead with tasteful silences, classical cello and the frequent sighs of Guy.

This at least avoids some of the more familiar groundwork. When foreign exchange student Sophie (Felicity Jones) emerges from the airport arrivals lounge, it's immediately clear that something — perhaps a great deal of something — may well have happened already. Pleasant, amiable Keith promptly rifles sneakily through her suitcase, the camera lingering on her undergarments just to prove the point. Sophie plays a mean Chopin piano, and Keith has a sideline as an orchestral cellist; so for a while they seem to be communicating via the classical repertoire. But the hesitant, off-balance relationship between older man and younger woman mostly remains a vague outline, intriguingly short of anything as coarse as a full explanation.

A shame that the film opts not to deliver anything as coarse as a surprise either, and everybody's troubled destination is all too clear from the moment Mr. Pearce and Ms. Jones exchange looks at the airport. Between Keith's flexible affections and the wandering hands of uncouth jock Aaron (Matthew Daddario), the male gender does not come out of the film very well, leaving Sophie painted in a kinder light than she may deserve. Ms. Jones duly earns star billing for her troubled charm, but the film is actually a better shopwindow for Mackenzie Davis as Keith's teenage daughter Lauren, caught squarely in the ongoing crossfire. The subtle vexations between bookish, musical parent and athletic, nonmusical daughter turn out to be rather more engaging than the goings-on between teacher and his temptation.

BREATHE IN

Opens on July 19 in Britain and on March 28, 2014 in Manhattan.

Directed by Drake Doremus; written by Mr. Doremus and Ben York Jones; director of photography, John Guleserian; edited by Jonathan Alberts; music by Dustin O’Halloran; production design by Katie Byron; produced by Jonathan Schwartz, Andrea Sperling, Steven M. Rales and Mark Roybal; released by Artificial Eye (Britain) and Cohen Media Group (United States). Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. This film is rated 15 by B.B.F.C. and R by M.P.A.A.

WITH: Guy Pearce (Keith), Felicity Jones (Sophie), Amy Ryan (Megan), Matthew Daddario (Aaron) and Mackenzie Davis (Lauren).

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