A Review of Breathe In, Directed by Drake Doremus

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The Sundance Festival winner Drake Doremus gives us Breathe In. This is a brutally honest portrayal of deep, inconvenient love. It crosses the boundaries of age and conformity to achieve an elevated level of purity and raw, emotional intensity like I have never seen before. The story follows an English schoolgirl (Felicity Jones) who arrives to study in America to escape her crippling grief following a family death. She finds herself submerged in the lives of a close family of three and as the film progresses she slowly falls in love with the ageing father (Guy Pearce), a piano teacher tainted by his unfulfilled ambition. 

 It is shot in a simplistic manner with a subdued colour palette and a gentle focus on exquisite detail. From an abandoned swing at dusk to noticing a particularly poignant book title, you feel more perceptive than ever. Watching this film was an agonizing experience in itself. I was consistently moved by the powerful sense of longing communicated by stolen glances between the physically detached - yet emotionally entwined - lovers. Unlike most 21st century romances, there are no sex scenes and barely a kiss is exchanged, but you still feel like the pair have broken every rule imaginable. 

 The hauntingly beautiful classical soundtrack - especially the track Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears - drew me further into the paradox of their euphoria turned to suffering. The crescendo leading up to the expectant silence of the intimate reservoir scene left us with a feeling of humbling emptiness when everything crumbled into loss. As Breathe In draws to a close the father symbolically closes the lid of his piano. This poignant gesture signals his abandonment of any sense of wonder in his life and our hearts sink with his. If you want to be moved and if you are willing to risk having your perspective on love and its boundaries dramatically altered, then give this contemporary masterpiece a chance.

 

 

Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com