Breathe In: Drake Doremus Is Not the Director He’s Hyped-Up to Be

Drake Doremus' Breathe In is a tedious and plodding attempt to explore the middle-aged male, heart all aflutter.

Drake Doremus’ Breathe In is a tedious and plodding attempt to explore the middle-aged male, heart all aflutter. Its plot sounds like a mash-up of bad pornos. Keith Reynolds (Guy Pearce) is a married-and-hunky high school music teacher who invites the hot and sophisticated teenage British beauty, Sophie (Felicity Jones), into his house as a foreign exchange student. She’s also a pianist, and while piano teacher Keith tries to lure her into his music class (cue second male fantasy, the hot student), Sophie sniffs-out his dog drool. Keith struggles with his professional failures, is bored with his marriage, and sees in Sophie the fresh intensity of life that might anchor him to a new sense of self-worth. But Sophie shirks his advances, content to immerse herself into American life. She gets on with Keith’s daughter Lauren, and goes out on a failed date with one of her new roommate’s exes. It all leaves her unsatisfied, however, and as time goes on, that mature male in the house offers a more intriguing romantic prospect than these teenage American boys. Cue steamy rain storm, an empty house, two freshly-opened brewskies, and a piano teacher and student – hands caressing over the 88 ivories.

Thirty-year-old filmmaker Drake Doremus drew acclaim with his 2011 movie, Like Crazy, which won top honors at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s easy to see how Doremus can be mistaken for a good filmmaker. His handheld camera frames his subjects in loose close-up, creating a feeling of tunnel vision that lends each shot an affected, put-on intensity. The probing camerawork strives to evoke confessional intimacy with his characters, but the results are self-conscious. Doremus’ process is also notable for its largely improved dialogue, developed over the course of multiple takes of each scene. In this new film, though, the characters end up speaking in long strings of clichés, and while Doremus does managed to create some scenes that radiate with a physical intensity, this visceral sense is absent from the overall drama. Instead we get actors who may have been living with their characters through grueling rehearsals, but who can’t seem to bring to the screen anything more than one-dimensional character ideas.