Tolstoy’s remark that “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, applies perfectly to Drake Doremus’ 2013 film, Breathe In.
As with his previous film Like Crazy, which also stars the undeniably talented Felicity Jones, Breathe In is composed of beautifully shot scenes that have such a romantic and delicate tonality to them that we cannot help but fall for the blossoming love between a husband (Guy Pearce) and his daughter’s exchange student (Jones).
Although the middle-aged-man-has-affair-with-younger-woman storyline may seem a predictable one, Breathe In’s intimate composure and improvised dialogue that Doremus intended for his actors to employ produces 98 utterly compelling minutes of film.
As well as being seriously aesthetically pleasing, viewers are treated to the aural delights of classical music played by the two main characters. It is their shared passion for music that draws them together, and which also serves to tear the husband’s family apart. The suggestion that music has the power to achieve such feats is a romantic one in itself, yet is also somewhat far-fetched. Nevertheless, perhaps this demonstrates the fragility of the husband and wife’s marriage to begin with if such a simple thing can cause its disintegration.
It is easy to fall in love with the scenes shared by the characters played by Pearce and Jones – their chemistry is palpable, and she epitomises everything that he feels he has left behind from his youth. Yet the pain that is so evidently being suffered by his wife and daughter is heartbreaking to watch, and we are soon reminded of whom we should be siding with.
The destruction of the family is perfectly illustrated when the film comes to a head with a powerful dichotomy between the father’s serene cello performance whilst Jones’ character travels on a silent train to meet him and his daughter’s devastating car crash. These two simultaneous yet conflicting events show the extent to which the family has been torn apart.
The car crash appears to have been a necessary evil in order for the family to at least try to remain together. The closing image of the film – which incidentally is also its opening visual, proves that although a family can attempt to paper over its problems, its unhappiness has been present for a long time, and will continue to exist.