From the moment Felicity Jones shows up as an English foreign exchange student in the upstate New York home of Guy Pearce’s frustrated music teacher, it’s only a matter of time before 18-year-old ingenue and 40-something family man get down to business – so quite why director Drake Doremus spends so much of the movie pretending it’s not going to happen is anyone’s guess.
Saddled with a depressingly shrewish wife (played by the distinctively unshrewish Amy Ryan), and given to nostalgically poring over photos of his days as an aspiring rock star, Pearce’s character might as well have “seduce me” tattooed on his oddly coiffed head, so readily does he conform to the frustrated middle-aged male stereotype.
Jones’ character isn’t much more rounded; her pseudo-profound dialogue and free spirited ways have been calibrated to flatter Pearce’s ego rather than give us any sense of who she is as a person. Things aren’t helped by Doremus’s willingness to further exploit worn-out movie tropes to signify the simmering passion between his leads. Furtive glances across the dinner table, virtuoso piano recitals and sudden thunderstorms are all present and correct, as are overly convenient revelations designed to facilitate the honking climax that sees the film descend into over-wrought melodrama in a desperate bid to give the film a pulse. Having made the similarly insipid Like Crazy (which also starred Jones), Doremus just can’t seem to tease out psychologically interesting performances from talented actors. Too bad.