After last weeks’ irony-bashing of teenagers, I’ve now got my own generation in my sights and to be more specific, my own sex. In ‘Breathe In’, young exchange student Sophie (Felicity Jones) comes to stay with the Reynolds family on the outskirts of New York. She’s set to be living with them for the semester and before too long, she’s got her apparently innocent, fluttering eyelashes and heart-shaped lips all of a quiver over the father of the tribe, Keith, played brilliantly (as usual) by Guy Pearce.
Now the name Keith may not, in most circles, set the pulse of your average teenage temptress racing. However, this is not your average teenage temptress, nor your average Keith. Sophie is proficient and gifted on the piano, the subject that Keith teaches. Contrived? Well, the signs are there from the outset, but they become a little more obvious as time goes on. Keith, whilst rugged (see ‘scruffy and unkempt’) athletic and somewhat chiselled, is a whole generation older and allegedly wiser. He should know better, quite frankly, and not for the first time, we are introduced to a ‘love story’ with obstacles that at first seem perfectly logical; age, marriage, responsibility and a mid-life crisis that bears more than a passing resemblance to many other films of its type. Lolita, anyone?
This now almost age-old story of the male of the species reaching a point in their life where a fling with a ‘younger model’ is almost mandatory by cinematic standards is as well played here as pretty much anywhere else, but it nevertheless does not make the act itself any more palatable, or the admittedly great actor portraying the crisis in question. My gender does not fare well in such circumstances, and rightly so, as we are most definitely the architects of our own emotional demise and the toppling cards of those all around us.
Realistically, the film takes some convincing. Would a man like this behave in such a way? Would he have his head turned by this slip of a girl, albeit pretty and talented, so completely, so quickly and with no thought for the consequences of such actions?
The plot twists just enough to keep it interesting for the viewer but seems at times at odds with itself. It is directed subtly and with due care and attention, with a beautiful score that compliments the narrative and its subsequent events. However, this dynamic, contemporary vision is sometimes undermined by the incredulity that is bound to be placed upon the viewer.
With excellent and taut performances throughout, ‘Breathe In’ is a treat for ‘acting’ fans everywhere, but the philosophy behind it is not as deftly handled as it might be. The contrivances start to come thick and fast by the start of the third act, making no apologies for being so transparent, which was a bit of a shame, but nonetheless, superlative performances from the main cast of players go a long way to recompense its major shortcomings. Taken with a pinch of salt and a reminder that this is entertainment after all, and you can enjoy this as a guilty pleasure, albeit a predictable and unoriginal one.