Edinburgh Film Festival review: Breathe In

Director Drake Doremus and actress Felicity Jones. Picture: PA
Director Drake Doremus and actress Felicity Jones. Picture: PA
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A LACKLUSTRE tale of a middle-aged man considering an affair with a younger woman, Breathe In was a worthy if not entirely successful choice for last night’s opening film of the 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Guests including Ewen Bremner, Kate Dickie and Stephen McCole arrived to an enthusiastic crowd outside the city’s Festival Theatre. They were joined by Breathe In’s lead, Felicity Jones, and her director, Drake Doremus, who received an on-stage welcome from EIFF artistic director Chris Fujiwara. As in 2012, Fujiwara is this year keen to expand his audiences’ horizons with little-known titles from around the globe.

Breathe In tells of middle-aged music teacher Keith (Guy Pearce, right), whose comfortable life in upstate New York hasn’t gone quite the way he planned. Keith may have a loving (if annoying) wife and daughter, but he wonders what might have been had he kept playing in his rock band.

Enter young foreign exchange student Sophie (Jones), whom Keith soon finds he has feelings for.

On the surface, Breathe In reeks of quality, Doremus framing his actors well in their many scenes together, while Jones and Pearce offer up perfectly-pitched performances. Jones, in particular, looks every inch the Hollywood starlet.

Sadly, the film’s main stumbling block lies in the unoriginality of its script. Doremus’s decision to revive the cliched premise of the older man falling for a pretty girl means the pressure was on for him to give the viewer a unique twist. Though there are moments which suggest the story might spiral off into new territory, these never come to fruition.

The result is a drably predictable effort which peters out with a whimper rather than a bang, an unfortunate opener for a festival which promises much.

* * *

Now they can breathe safely at the EIFF

NOW that its first night jitters are out of the way following last night’s premiere of Breathe In at the Festival Theatre, the Edinburgh International Film Festival is underway with a slew of populist and unknown titles waiting to impress film fans.

If you have time for a film tonight, head to Cineworld for What Maisie Knew, a low-key family drama starring Steve Coogan, Julianne Moore and Scots actress, Joanna Vanderham.

It tells of a family break-up and its effect on little Maisie (Onata Aprile) as she’s sent from parent to parent, and it should appeal to audiences of all ages.

I’d also recommend the challenging I Am Breathing from Edinburgh-based director Morag McKinnon. It tells of a young father diagnosed with motor neurone disease who decides to film his final months. Catch it at Filmhouse.

Looking for something action-packed? Try spy thriller, The Berlin File, on Sunday at Cineworld. This Korean action film includes plenty of gunfire, car chases and a hint of romance and should be a good antidote to the usual American efforts.

Next Wednesday sees the premiere of Jeanie Finlay’s excellent new documentary, The Great Hip Hop Hoax, at Cineworld.

It’s the bizarre story of two Scottish rappers who tried to convince the media they were from California, the oddest part being that it’s all true. Finlay also made the superb record store documentary, Sound It Out, and this is another winner.

Finally, I’d recommend sampling a slice of vintage Holywood in the shape of the EIFF Richard Fleischer season. Fleischer directed classics such as 1966’s Fantastic Voyage and 1955’s The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, both of which will be shown on Saturday at Filmhouse.

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