I have to admit I’m usually not into films about infidelity as it often gets glamorized on film and those getting cheated on often appear as if they deserve what happen to them. Luckily that’s not the case here. It’s more of a character study on temptation and the fragility of people who are deeply disillusioned with their lives.
The film opens with a seemingly happy family in an idyllic suburbs in upstate NY. The dad Keith (Guy Pearce) is a music teacher who is an aspiring orchestra cellist, the mother Megan (Amy Ryan), is a housewife who sells cookie jars on the side. Their daughter Lauren (Mackenzie Davis) is a swimming champion, blond and vivacious. They were all anticipating the arrival of Sophie, an exchange student from Britain who’s coming to stay w/ them. That part reminds me of an exchange student from Denmark who came to live with us when I was in high school. Fortunately there was no such drama like what happens to this family. But then again, the student at our house was not in the form of an attractive girl like Felicity Jones and there was no married male in my household.
The attraction between Keith and Sophie is inevitable and palpable. As soon as Keith helped her with her luggage at the airport, exchanging quick glances in the car or at dinnertime, all the seemingly innocent acts have an electric undercurrent.
The naturalistic style of Drake Doremus‘ direction lends itself to an atmospheric and intimate setting, as well as an authentic performance from the actors. Not that their behavior is excusable in any way, but neither Keith or Sophie seems powerless to stop their attraction from getting the best of them. In Keith’s part though, it seems that it’s more about him chasing his dream of a Bohemian life, something he felt he gave up when he took on the job and move out of Manhattan. There’s no real friction between him and his wife other than the fact that she sees his aspiring career as a concert cellist as a mere hobby. Keith’s motivation in the whole affair seemed more visible, for a lack of a better word, whilst Sophie’s much more of an enigma. And that to me, felt like a crux that prevents this film from being truly compelling. The way Lauren and her teenage friends is depicted here seems rather simplistic and generalized, it certainly puts teen life in a very unflattering light.
What I do appreciate is the lack of sensational & unnecessary sex scenes which I think would cheapen the story. As my friend Ashley astutely pointed out in her comment, anyone can grind and moan but to create a real sexual tension with just the touch of a hand or even a look across the room is far more challenging. As I’ve mentioned briefly in this piano moment post, there’s not one but two memorable piano scene brimming with sexual tension. Pearce and Jones certainly have a scorching chemistry despite their 16 age gap and the build up to their first moment together was almost as tense as a suspense thriller! Pearce is one of today’s finest actors and this performance further cements his amazing versatility. Even at 30, Jones still looks believable enough as a teen, and her character is supposed to be much more mature than her age. Having seen Like Crazy, I feel like I have seen Jones in a similar role as a girl who recklessly puts desire and passion above reason.
I have to give props to Amy Ryan for delivering a memorable supporting role to a thankless role as Keith’s wife. She somehow makes her character sympathetic and I’m glad the film didn’t turn her into nothing but *scornful wife* here. There’s also a droll, albeit creepy, scene with Kyle MacLachlan pointing out the elephant in the room to Pearce’s character.
I think people might call this film tedious or underwhelming as there’s barely anything happening. I can see where they’re coming from, and for me, if it weren’t for the excellent performances I’d probably think the same way. I do think the script is so sparse and the vague finale barely give us anything to grasp on. What happened to Sophie in the end? Is the family beyond repair at this point? There are gaps that seem to be intentionally left open here which can be frustrating. All the exquisitely shot and breathless moments are memorable in and of itself, but ultimately the film itself feels too indulgent and even morose for its own good. One thing for sure though, it’s quite a sobering picture of infidelity that temptation may be sweet but remorse never is.
The Grand Seduction
I almost missed seeing this as I couldn’t get an extra ticket for my hubby on Friday night. Fortunately there’s a second screening on Sunday night and I’m glad I made it! This is one of the most delightful and sweet comedies I’ve seen in a long while.
The tiny Newfoundland harbor called Tickle Cove was once a thriving fishing village. But now that they’re prohibited from fishing to make a living, the community is living off welfare check. So when there is an opportunity that might land a contract with a big oil corporation to build a factory, a petrochemical byproduct repurposing facility to be exact, the town realize this is an opportunity of a lifetime to save their town from complete financial ruin. What’s the catch? In order to have the factory built on their premises, the contract specifies that the town needs a permanent doctor. And that’s where the grand seduction comes in.
At first I was wondering why they choose such a sensational title but once I see the movie it perfectly makes sense! The doctor in question is a young, cricket-loving Dr. Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch), is only assigned in that town for a month. And so the new mayor Murray French (Brendan Gleeson) gets the entire harbor community to seduce the doctor to stay. The length to their seduction is the heart of the story and it lends itself to grand hilarity! I think the funniest bits are when the hockey-loving town has to learn the game of cricket, from creating the uniform & paddles, building the cricket field AND of course learning the rule of the game. As soon as Dr. Lewis arrives in town, he’s welcomed by practically the entire male population in a [faux] game of cricket. That’s just a fraction of the other schemes the entire town is in on Dr. Lewis, who’s so deliriously oblivious I feel like he deserves being pranked in this way.
I LOVE comedies that aren’t gross, foul-mouthed or just plain silly and this movie fits that description. As director Don McKellar said during the Q&A after the film, he’s drawn to the project as it’s the kind of social comedy that has a certain dignity, a certain respect for the people being depicted. There is a purpose to every gag, down to even the smallest comic scene is not a waste. There’s an obvious ethical issue with what the town is doing, I mean they’re tapping his phone and stuff, the NSA has nothing on them, ahah. Yet it’s not done in a mean-spirited kind of way and you can’t help but root for the town as well as for the young doctor.
The name of the harbor town is perfectly appropriate as it tickles your funny bone. There are plenty of gut-busting, thigh-slapping hilarity to be had from start to finish and having real life townsfolk definitely makes it feel authentic. Gleeson and Kitsch seem like an odd match and it is, but that’s kind of the point and it’s played to great effect here. Both of them are the only two actors who aren’t from easternmost province of Canada. Gleeson is Irish (which fits perfectly to the town’s Irish heritage) and Kitsch grew up in Vancouver. Gleeson is such a great actor, but I really like him in comedies [he’s much softer here though than his character in The Guard which I saw recently]. He’s is joined by Newfoundland’s most famous celebrity Gordon Pinsent (Away From Her), and the rest of the supporting cast, including comedian Mark Critch are from the area as well. All of them are so hilarious and by the end of it I fell in love with the Tickle Cove community!
The ending is pretty predictable but in no way that it lessens the charm of the story. In fact, I don’t mind it at all that it ends on a hopeful and cheery note. I’m still gleeful just thinking about some of the funniest bits from this movie. Not only is it delightfully funny, it’s also heartwarming and beautiful to look at, it could practically doubles as a tourism video for Newfoundland. I definitely will watch it again as soon as it’s available on dvd or streaming.
Have you seen either one of these movies? I’d love to hear what you think!
61 thoughts on “MSPIFF14 Reviews: Breathe In & The Grand Seduction”
The Grand Seduction looks great, Ruth. Kind of reminds me of ‘Waking Ned Devine’ an Irish community comedy. Nice review 🙂
Hi Cindy! I really appreciate you checking out the MSPIFF reviews, it’s usually lonely here whenever I cover a film fest 😦 The Grand Seduction is hilarious and heartwarming. I still need to see ‘Waking Ned Devine’ but I can see the comparison. Gleeson is wonderful once again!
I’m here for you! 🙂
And I appreciate you Cindy, you’re a real pal! 😀
That’s a good, honest assessment of Breathe In, you point out its weaknesses and flaws. Sophie is indeed an enigma, I guess she didn’t really know what she wanted at that age, still figuring out who she is. I figure she’s got a perceptive mind, because she notices his marriage is not a happy one, and not everyone her age has that perception.
Hi Chris! Yeah I guess that’s how it is with a lot of teenagers but she seems that she can’t relate to her roommate or classmate either who’s more her age. Seems that she’s drawn to older men as she’s perhaps more mature beyond her years but she’s also not mature enough to know the consequences of what she is doing. I didn’t dislike the film, there are lots to appreciate, I just feel that it could’ve been more compelling overall.
Breathe In is the film I’m most interested in seeing as I really liked Like Crazy and want to check out more of Felicity Jones though I have no interest in seeing her tiny role in the new Spider-Man movie as I heard she’s just wasted in that film.
Felicity Jones is in the new Spider-Man movie?? Wow I had no idea. Yeah seems like it’d be a waste of her talent.
Both of these sound pretty cool. Especially The Grand Seduction.
Hi Abbi! The Grand Seduction is an absolute delight! I don’t say that often (or at all) about Taylor Kitsch movies, ahah, but he’s actually quite good here.
Can’t say I”m that interested in either of these movies but I always like Gleeson, so I might give a watch when it hits Netflix.
It’s great that you keep posting reviews of movies in Festivals, most of these movies will never get a mainstream release and many people aren’t interested in seeing them. I’m one of those people but once in a while I like seeing these smaller movies. I used to go to film festivals contstantly, been to Sundance a couple of times. But now that I”m older, I only will see movies i really want to see. I saw too many bad “indie” films the last few years and just don’t want to invest my time in them.
Hi Ted! I think you’d enjoy Grand Seduction if you like comedies. Gleeson is awesome as always. You’ve seen The Guard right, that’s a hoot as well.
Yeah even tho readership generally dips whenever I cover film fest I still like doing ’em as you get to see small gems that you otherwise won’t ever get around to. So far I haven’t seen a bad one yet so I must’ve chosen well, ha..ha..
Great reviews, Ruth. I might check out Breathe In eventually because I’m a big fan of Pearce, but I’m not really excited for it. Glad to hear Grand Seduction is good. I quite liked the concept when I read about it the other day. How was Kitsch as a doctor?
Hi Fernando! Breathe In is still worth a look even just for Pearce. He is still outstanding even if the script is not great.
I adore The Grand Seduction. It’s such a jolly n heartwarming movie. Kitsch is surprisingly quite believable as a young doctor, but the medical-related stuff is minimal anyway. The exchange between him n Gleeson are great, what an unlikely duo but it works here.
Then I will check it out!
And glad to hear that. I haven’t been impressed by Kitsch in the movies I’ve seen him in, so that’s why I asked. Gleeson is another story, though. I quite like him.
Oh I haven’t been impressed with Kitsch either tho I didn’t hate him in John Carter as many did, I just think the film needed a more seasoned actor. He’s good here tho, I think the character is supposed be naive and oblivious doctor so he kinds fits the role, ahah. Gleeson is just superb, but he usually is. You have seen The Guard right? If not I highly recommend that too!
Yeah, he was just OK in John Carter. There were far worse things in that movie, LOL.
I haven’t seen it but I’ve heard wonderful things about it so I’ll check it out. Big fan of his son Domnhall, too!
Interestingly enough I was quite entertained by it, perhaps I was expecting the absolute worst after reading some of the reviews.
The Gleesons are great aren’t they? I need to see more from Domnhall but from the few I saw him in, I do like him.
He’s superb in Anna Karenina, Dredd and About Time.
I still haven’t seen Anna Karenina and About Time yet. But I did see him in Dredd and this small Irish crime drama Shadow Dancer w/ Clive Owen. He’s very good in that as well.
Ooh, I will look for that one.
I haven’t got a chance to review it yet but I mentioned about it here: http://wp.me/pxXPC-7sj Definitely worth a look also for Andrea Riseborough’s performance.
I like her too!
You saw her in Disconnect or Oblivion? She is a phenomenal actress and so beautiful & chameleon like, similar to Cate Blanchett in a way.
In Oblivion, yes. She was the highlight of that film for me.
Hey, Ruth. Both of these sound somewhat promising, at least, and the second sounds really, really good. I’ll give them both a watch at some point – I still hope I like Breathe In, the flaws you point out notwithstanding. And The Grand Seduction certainly sounds like my sort of flick.
Great reviews, as always!
I think Breathe In is still very much worth a look. I still like it despite the flaws, I don’t even see it as tedious though the ending could’ve been a lot better.
But The Grand Seduction is an absolute delight! I could easily see it again, it’s so much fun and lots of thigh-slapping hilarity to be had.
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I certainly have Breathe In on my watch list. I’m a big fan of Doremus’ work on Like Crazy and this sounds right up my street. Great reviews!
Hi Natalie! If you’re into Doremus’ style I think you’d appreciate Breathe In. It’s also wonderfully-acted which is a reason to see as well.
I do like Felicity Jones. I missed her in The Invisible Woman earlier this year so I have that to catch up on. She makes a fleeting appearance in Amazing Spider Man 2 as well but has just two lines – such a waste of talent there.
I haven’t seen The Invisible Woman yet but my friend did a guest review of it here a while back. I didn’t realize Jones was in Amazing Spider-Man 2 until a couple ppl mentioned it yesterday! Yeah I thought she’d be a waste in such a movie.
I just saw Breathe In Ruth and I was totally captivated by it. I’m a big fan Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy and he seems to have done it again here. The performances are so natural and the story comes across as very honest. I completely agree with you that the retrained sexual tension here is much more powerful than the free and easy sexual encounters Hollywood usually supplies.
Hi Natalie! Glad you enjoyed it. I really like the naturalistic approach to the performance too, that’s definitely the strength of this film. I think the sexual tension is actually more intense the fact that it’s not overtly done.
I agree. A brief glance or a hand on the shoulder is all takes to create the tension with these capable performers.
The ‘breathe in’ scene and that piano scene where he held her hand literally took my breath away. I think as a woman, the less-is-more approach is much sexier. Leaves more to the imagination y’know 😉
I with you on that one 🙂
I’m really interested in catching ‘Breathe In’ at some point. Nice job Ruth!
Have you seen Like Crazy? That’s by the same director. If you like a slower-paced, atmospheric film then you should enjoy Breathe In.
No I haven’t, for some reason it just attracts me though.
Ah ok. Well I’m sure you’ve seen Guy Pearce’s work tho right. He’s excellent here as per usual.
Oh most certainly, I want to check out as much of his work as I can!
Wow! Two stellar reviews. I LOVE that you feel Guy Pearce is one of today’s finest actors. I 100% agree and he is the big reason I’m anxious to see it. But I too like the idea of creating sexual tension without the crutch of nudity-filled sex scenes.
The Grand Seduction sounds like an absolute treat. Gleason is always fun and the images you used has him looking perfectly in tune. Can’t wait for it.
Hi ya Keith! I tell you Pearce is just tremendous in this, it’s one of his softer roles and his character doesn’t say much but he says sooo much even with just a glance. Definitely an amazing performer. Jones is good too though I can’t say she’s versatile yet as I’ve only seen two of her work and it’s quite similar. I really appreciate the lack of gratuitous sexuality here, I think that’s a rarity these days.
I can’t recommend The Grand Seduction enough! I sure hope it’ll be available to rent here in the US either via Netflix or iTunes. Gleeson is great but so are the supporting cast. I even like Kitsch here in a rare non-Blockbuster role, he should seek out more roles like this.
I may give Breathe in a chance, but Pearce’s work has been far less than impressive for me lately, he was ridiculous in Iron Man 3. Hopefully he is better here as it’s a smaller movie and he seems to be playing a normal person 🙂
Hi Sati! I agree he’s much better playing a regular guy, which he is here. I think this could be one of my fave performances from here, despite the film not being short of excellent. He looks so believable as a musician I thought he might be for real. Curious to hear what you think when you get around to it.
As we say round these parts; top banana Ruth! Glad you’re enjoying the festival by the way.
Thanks Mark! Yeah, it’s been great, I’m lucky to get two film fest in town.
Hope you give either or both of these movies a shot 😀
I’ll have to keep an eye out for both of these. Amy Ryan can do no wrong in my book, and I really enjoy Brendan Gleeson’s work as well. Nice writeups, Ruth!
Hey Eric, sorry for some reason I missed your comment. If you love Amy Ryan, this is worth a look, she is very good here.
Breathe In sounds interesting, I like Guy Pearce he’s good in everything he does. I also find it intriguing when the lead guy in the pic falls for the girl he totally should not be falling for. The Grand Seduction looks like it could be a cute movie.
Guy Pearce is definitely a great actor and his acting chops is used wonderfully here. The struggle against the power of attraction is intriguing as well.
As for The Grand Seduction, it’s absolutely delightful!
I didn’t care for Like Crazy, but I might check out Breathe In. The Grand Seduction looks like a lot of fun. I recently watched a similar lighthearted film called Local Hero, which is set in Scotland, and I loved it.
I like Breathe In a bit more than Like Crazy, mostly because Pearce is such an amazing actor. The Grand Seduction is just awesome. Now I’m curious about Local Hero, haven’t heard about that one before.
Great stuff Ruth, I think we are pretty eye-to-eye on Breathe In: lots to admire in the acting department and from a visual standpoint it was a beautiful piece to watch, but when it all added up in the end there wasn’t much memorable at all about it.
I have never heard of anything about the Grand Seduction, but it sounds like a great little romp! Love Brendan Gleeson and these kinds of ‘small town’ movies are right up my alley. Thanks for putting that on my radar
Hi Tom! I appreciate the style and Doremus’ decision in creating such an atmospheric film but yeah, in the end it left me wanting. Pearce was great though.
As for The Grand Seduction, it was so much fun!! Lots of thigh-slapping hilarity to be had and the humor is not mean-spirited at all. If you like these types of small-town comedies, esp w/ someone like Gleeson, I think you’d enjoy it too!
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