Breathe In

 breathe in

Bearing the distinction of being the opening film of 2013’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, Breathe In directed by Drake Doremus is a low key, understated affair which could not be further removed from 2012 opener William Friedkin’s Killer Joe starring Matthew McConaughey.  That film was fast paced, emotionally overwrought with violence and profane language running rampant on a non stop carnage trail. In complete contrast Breathe In buries its emotions beneath the surface and relies instead on lingering looks, nuance and subtlety to create a film which although hardly original in its themes and outcomes is superbly acted and skilfully executed.

 Focussing on  how a high school music teacher’s life and family are turned upside down by the arrival of an English exchange student, Sophie-Felicity Jones- who comes to study and stay with them. Keith-Guy Pearce- and his family –wife (Amy Ryan) and daughter Lauren (Mackenzie Davis)- are meandering along within the confines of a stable but dull life with all of Keith’s ambitions and dreams thwarted by his responsibilities of maintaining the family unit.

 Although it is never stated, he is bored with the mundane routine of his life and has a seething resentment toward both his wife and daughter who he feels have held him back. However he has coasted along quite contentedly until the moment Sophie arrives and within seconds it becomes clear there is an attraction between them. This feeling only intensifies after he hears her perform a difficult Chopin piece on the piano and he realises that not only is she worldly wise, extremely beautiful and intelligent but she is also exceptionally gifted.

 For Sophie’s part the talent she literally has at her fingertips scares her as does her attraction to Keith and at first she is reluctant to expose or reveal either of these things in front of him. Inevitably the feelings intensify and an emotional involvement occurs but not before a personal tragedy envelopes their affair and brings it out into the open.

 To be fair there is nothing highly original in this screenplay to make it stand out from so many others and at times it is all too obvious what is going to happen; the attraction between Keith and Sophie is apparent after they meet at the airport and in the car ride home. The following drama is therefore quite predictable but whilst it affords the external characters- wife and daughter- more depth than usual it is the strong ensemble playing which brings it to life and grants it some kudos of its own.  It is also beautifully shot with lush and muted tones contrasting beautifully against an exquisite soundtrack which allows the plot to unfold against an atmospheric backdrop.

 A strange choice to open a film festival, it is however also  a brave one. Subtle, low key and nuanced are perhaps the best way to describe the work but at least there is little chance of anyone saying EIFF 2013 peaked too soon.

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