Film Review: Breathe In

I truly don’t know how I came to watch Breathe In; a little known movie starring Felicity Jones and Guy Pearce about a foreign exchange student (Jones) who arrives with her American host family, altering their dynamic and thus their relationship forever. I had actually wanted to watch Wild Tales only to discover that it has just been removed from my usual On-Demand streaming service and so, was left scratching my head, pondering the digital listings, trying to find something else. And Breathe In just stuck out.

Why it stuck out I really don’t know? My guess would be the cast – although the “offer” price of 99p will have helped – because I didn’t bother to watch the trailer, do any background reading or even look up it’s IMDb page. I simply breathed out, went “that’ll do…” and hit play. I really didn’t have any idea what to expect, or even how long it would last!

Voyeurism - Breathe In

As a movie it’s a strange affair and one that didn’t actually sit that easily with me. It’s not the type of film you really watch. Instead, you almost absorb it because there is more than just a hint of voyeurism in the way it invites you in. The plot is very much set within the family home and within the family structure and so I felt like I was ease dropping a private conversation, one that isn’t actually any of my business and that left me feeling uncomfortable. You can tell it wants to be a narrative debate about relationships and trust, feelings and infidelity, but it ended up feeling more like a dirty little secret, like a whisper behind it’s back and I just sat there thinking “what right do I have to judge anybody when it doesn’t actually effect me?”. It’s really nothing more than fly on the wall gossip laid bare. And that’s not really enjoyable.

It story is centred around Felicity Jones and Guy Pearce, although they are supported by Amy Ryan (Birdman & Jack Goes Boating) and Mackenzie Davis (What If) as the other members of the family, and together they form a quartet that felt believable both in terms of a family unit and as individual people. They seem normal and everyday and they inhabit a world that feels tangible and existent, but I could never get away from the fact that I shouldn’t be in it. That I was watching characters who were never trying to, or interested in, being my friend, or even acknowledging that I was there. I was simply and rudely spying on their lives without apology.

Drake Doremus, Mackenzie Davis, Felicity Jones, Amy Ryan & Guy Pearce - Breathe In

However wrong your involvement in their world is, there are times a few times throughout the film where you do start to feel an emotional connection to the actions of the characters. But it’s at them rather than with you. You react to what happens and the situations they find themselves in, questioning their actions. The feelings that stir in your gut aren’t empathetic but rather judgemental.

This overriding sense of a privacy, that you shouldn’t really be watching is emphasized by the fact that it’s very noticeable just how silent the film actually is. There are passages of dialogue, but they feel minoritised by a muteness that is all encompassing in its presence. Lingering looks, reflective pauses all held that awkward moment longer than you would like and all used to heighten the sense of emptiness as well as, lower the temperature of every scene. And it’s a credit to director Drake Doremus, and especially cinematographer John Guleserian that the film manages to create such a powerful tone when naratively, it is confined into such fractured position emotionally with you.

Guy Pearce (Music) - Breathe In

There is one complaint I have against it cinematically though and that how the film uses music. The sub setting of the plot is within the musical world, providing both a metaphorical and a physical device to drive the story forward. It’s the original attraction, the forbidden fruit and the lustful lie and with the script being so subdued and thus, lacking a warming emotional connection, I wanted the music to take its place, to reach out an engulf me, and it never does. I want to be punched by the score, to feel overwhelmed by the notes and I want the music to speak the words that my eyes longed to hear. It never happens because the music feels conformist. A bit too weak and a bit too damp, lacking a little bit of inner confidence to stand tall against the visuals of the film. Almost scared in case it overshadows anything.

Breathe In has ended up as one of those films that I really don’t know if I enjoyed it or not. It’s left me feeling like I had observed a story that I had no right to and so looking back, it’s forced me to look beyond it’s very private plot. To look at the performances and the construction and all I’ve found is a cast that blend together, nobody standing out from any other, and a film that never bores, but it never engrosses either. I hasn’t changed my life, is hasn’t lingered in my mind. It’s a personal story for characters that I now just feel sorry for. I feel like I’ve watched fictional characters being torn apart and hung out to dry, and whether real or not, I just don’t see why I should pull enjoyment from that, because ultimately what happens behind their closed door, is theirs, not mine.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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