BREATHE IN // With 2011’s “Like Crazy”, two things happened: Drake Doremus became one of my favorite directors and I developed a huge crush on actress Felicity Jones. A few years later, we are once again graced with their presence together in the independent drama entitled “Breathe In”, an emotionally complex study of a family which faces its breaking point after welcoming a beautiful high school foreign exchange student into their home. Guy Pearce and Amy Ryan play Keith and Megan, whose struggles as a married couple are so recognizable and on the surface that the authenticity of this relationship is undeniable. Battling the curse of getting older and wondering where his life got off track, Keith is already destroying foundations when we first meet him, as he loses a game of Jenga with his wife and daughter, Lauren (Mackenzie Davis). All it takes is Felicity Jones as Sophie, the well-educated and beyond-her-years exchange student, to send the family’s foundation crashing down in a heap of blocks. Keith and Sophie bond over a love of creating music, which develops one of the main themes of the film, with the music, particularly the piano, playing a key part in the progression of the plot, while also tying in an enthralling soundtrack that mesmerizes.

Complex emotions and deep meanings are Doremus’ forte, both of which are highly prevalent during “Breathe In”. There are no clear-cut answers as the complexity of human nature is put to the test. By the end of the film, none of the characters are particularly happy, but the emotions felt by the characters as well as the audience are so raw and intense that Doremus is basically capturing lightning in bottle. Nothing captivates me more than an intelligent director willing to make deeper connections. Normally shooting off very small treatments, Doremus allows for the dialogue to feel organic and although the script is often light, he still displays great meaning in all other aspects of the film. When you sit back and realize what each element means; Megan’s jars, Lauren’s swing set, the innocent game of Jenga, the true genius of Doremus shines through. Also continuing a staple of his, this brilliant director allows intense chemistries to flourish between his main protagonists, providing them free range to explore their characters, which becomes particularly apparent in their long gazes at one another where a million things could be running through the character’s mind, but the audience sits in silence. Doremus is a director of subtly and profound emotion and to be able to deliver in such a passionate way speaks volumes about the sensitivity and vision of the man pulling the strings. With “Breathe In” proving to be every bit as solid as “Like Crazy”, young director Drake Doremus is two for two.

[Directed by Drake Doremus] [R] [98 min] [28 March 2014]   10five-stars

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