EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE (2021)

April 1, 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. Psychological Thrillers can be quite fun to watch when well-written and well-acted. It’s a delicate balance though, since if even one of those elements is lacking, the enjoyment level plummets and the eye-rolling begins. Unfortunately this film from director Vaughn Stein (TERMINAL, 2018) and screenwriter David Murray (his first feature film) is a masterclass in eye-rolling, despite a well-respected and familiar cast.

Oscar winner Casey Affleck (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, 2016) and Michelle Monaghan star as married couple Dr. Philip and Grace Clark. He works at a Psychiatry Institute and she’s a local Real Estate Agent. An early scene shows adoring mother Grace driving their young son to hockey practice. Tragedy strikes, and since that night, Philip and Grace barely speak to each other or his teenage daughter (by another mother) Lucy (India Eisley, daughter of Olivia Hussey). All three are grieving in their own way – emotionally isolated from the others. Grace aggressively swims laps day and night in the pool at their stunning modern mansion. Lucy has been expelled from her private school for snorting cocaine during Science Lab. Philip immerses himself in his work with clients, and we know he’s smart because he’s wearing glasses.

One client with whom Philip takes a special interest is Daphne (Emily Alyn Lind, DOCTOR SLEEP, 2019), a troubled young lady from a troubled family. To help Daphne deal with boyfriend issues, Philip uses unconventional personal therapy, which he then presents as a Case Study for students … against the wishes of his boss and friend Vanessa (Veronica Ferres). This backfires when Daphne seemingly commits suicide, and her grieving brother James (Sam Claflin, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY) shows up.

At this point, everyone is grieving and Philip’s career begins to crumble as he’s blamed for Daphne’s suicide. James turns on the charm for Grace and Lucy, and even though the characters don’t get it, every viewer will recognize what’s happening, why it’s happening, and where it’s headed. Even this would be fine if things played out in a clever manner, rather than over-the-top and obvious. Even the Rorschach inkblot tests used as artwork in the pristine Clark mansion are cause for eye rolls. Claflin probably has the most fun of any with his role, but it’s Monaghan who comes closest to molding a full dimensional human out of her character. Affleck just adds yet another despondent, joyless character to his resume … though he does get to throw one tantrum while sitting in his car – alone, of course. Fortunately, these actors will assuredly move on to projects more worthy of their talents.

In select theatres and premium VOD on April 2, 2021

WATCH THE TRAILER


JACKIE & RYAN (2015)

July 4, 2015

jackie & ryan Greetings again from the darkness. Complexity of characters, action sequences and plot twists are so common in movies these days that a simple story told in a straight-forward manner can catch us a bit off-guard. Such is the case with this latest from writer/director Ami Canaan Mann (Michael Mann’s daughter, and known for Texas Killing Fields).

A romantic drama usually leans heavily on the strength of its leads, and the teaming of Katherine Heigl and Ben Barnes normally wouldn’t instill much hope. Don’t expect this one to linger in your thoughts much after you have left the theatre, but most will find it pleasant enough to watch … if for no other reason than the interesting songs written by Nick Hans and sung by Barnes. And yes, Heigl sings a bit too … but not much considering her character supposedly had a successful singing career in years gone by.

There is an air of familiarity to the story as Barnes plays a free-willed musician who travels by train and performs in the streets of the towns he visits. Circumstances occur that bring Barnes and Heigl together, and soon enough romance is in the air. Heigl and her daughter (Emily Alyn Lind) live with her mom (Sheryl Lee), and Barnes hangs around for awhile to fix the roof … and other things. Indie favorite Clea DuVall has a small role that adds a bit of interest, but mostly this one hinges on Barnes and Heigl.

If you are one of the many who have grown tired of Heigl’s big screen career, you might be a bit surprised here as she struggles to raise her daughter while going through a nasty divorce. Barnes has also done little (since his posturing in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) to lead up to his more gritty and somewhat likeable role. Again, not much here will stick, but it’s pleasant enough to watch.

watch the trailer: