Read the Music (Film Review: “Breathe In”)

Recipe for Disaster: Take one suburban marriage, add a frustrated husband in a mid-life funk, mix in a disapproving wife and a high-strung daughter, gently fold in one beautiful British exchange student and let simmer over a low flame until it boils over.

SnapShot Plot

In the quietly suspenseful family drama, Breathe InKeith Reynolds (played skillfully in painstaking close-ups by Guy Pearce) is a good man: a loving husband and father, a caring and involved teacher, and a part-time concert cellist who regularly subs for a major orchestra in Manhattan, to which he dreams of one day becoming First Chair. He has long since abandoned his past (as a member of a long-defunct rock band) but his past hasn’t abandoned him, continually beckoning to him, teasing him to reconsider his comfortable suburban life against the romantic notion of moving back to the City to re-inhabit the intense world of a full-time musician. His wife, Megan (played with the perfect measure of empathy and disdain by Amy Ryan) has heard it all before, too many times, in fact. She is quite content being a full-time Mom, driving their athlete daughter, Lauren, to her swim meets and activities, and devoting her spare time to the pursuit and collection of vintage cookie jars. A decision she will soon regret is welcoming British exchange student Sophie (Felicity Jones) into their home for the semester. Although the two girls are the exact same age, Sophie couldn’t be more different than their boisterous and volatile daughter. Her prodigious talent at the keyboard, combined with her self-possessed, even aloof nature, make her an unnerving presence in the household. Soon it becomes apparent that a musical bond has developed between Sophie and Keith which soon blossoms into something much deeper, much more dangerous, threatening to strip away the veneer of stability within the family…the proverbial cracks in the cookie jar, as it were.


 “Don’t let fear become your profession.”

Parting Shot

Up and comer Felicity Jones has been working a lot these days, and this role is particularly suited to her youthful looks, her delicate frame and pouty, almost hungry mouth; when she gazes at Keith it’s as if she could swallow him whole. Her ‘fox in the hen house’ doesn’t have to be overtly menacing to still be deadly. Thankfully for this film, the attraction between these two does not translate as a predictable, mid-life crisis pot-boiler (haven’t we seen enough of those?) but rather a more tricky predicament having to do with Romance: the romance of youth, the romance of passion & talent, the romance of freedom. Those are the things that Sophie represents, thereby triggering the soul-searing attraction Keith feels for her. Their relationship, of course still sexually charged, takes on a more romantic note as they pour out their hearts to each other while she becomes increasingly a damsel-in-distress and he becomes (infuriatingly so) the juvenile, idealistic suitor in an almost courtly love poem.

Casting SideBar:  American audiences know Australian actor, Guy Pearce primarily from his star turn in 1997’s L.A. Confidential and the mind bending thriller, Memento in 2000, although he’s been steadily churning out fine supporting roles in films such as The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, and most recently, Iron Man 3. Veteran American actor, Amy Ryan is widely respected as both a dramatic and comedic artist, and she is currently promoting her new film, the highly anticipated Birdman, co-starring opposite Michael Keaton.

I was also delighted to see Alexandra Wentworth (better known as Mrs. George Stephanopoulos) in a brief yet insightful supporting role as Kyle MacLachlan’s wife, a woman who takes delight in citing how many of their neighbors are getting divorced, speaking about it as if it was some kind of airborne spore which could land on anyone’s doorstep, with or without a steamer trunk loaded with sheet music and classic romance novels.

Breathe In is Available on Netflix.

Norma’s Streaming Picks is proud to announce squatters rights on a fantastic site for Baby Boomers, Midcentury/Modern as well as right here at home. I invite you to go there for more great content!

Click on DVD image above to purchase or rent. If you can’t see the Poster, disabling your Ad Blocking software should do the trick!


YouTube Trailer Courtesy of:



Leave a Reply