March 28, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'Breathe In' is idealized take on a too-familiar storyline

Felicity Jones plays Sophie, a British exchange student, in 'Breathe In.' (Indian Paintbrush)

In “Breathe In,” old dreams die hard and new dreams don’t stand a chance.

Keith Reynolds (Guy Pearce) has had to settle in life. He was once an aspiring cellist in New York City, hoping to perform with a symphony orchestra. But marriage to Megan (Amy Ryan) and fathering turning-18 Lauren (Mackenzie Davis) intervened, and now Keith teaches music at a small-town high school in upstate New York.

Coming to stay with the Reynolds is British exchange student Sophie (Felicity Jones), a beautiful and brilliant pianist who finds herself uninspired.

Uh-oh, it’s the old exchange student story. The vampish hottie who arrives ready and willing to prey on an older man’s fantasies and destroy a normal, loving family.

Well, yes and no. It’s to director Drake Doremus’ immense credit that he, writing along with Ben York Jones, takes a standard situation and examines it with an idealist’s eye, looking for a romantic notion instead of raw lust.

There’s nothing in “Breathe In” that you don’t expect to see, except for restraint, but that in itself changes the perspective.

Sophie senses Keith’s restless ambition; indeed, he’s auditioning for a permanent position with an orchestra even at this late date and against Megan’s wishes. And Keith senses a kindred spirit in Sophie, an artist just ready to bloom.

Can Keith get another shot at life?

Felicity Jones, who is actually 30, makes Sophie both irresistible and real, a somewhat open book of wonder and innate wisdom. But she’s not only a temptress, she’s also tempted by the sense of direction that Keith offers.

They’re a match made in heaven. Some different heaven perhaps. “Breathe In” is too flesh-and-blood to give in to the fantasy. It offers a ripple in time, a connection, and then it settles.

'Breathe In'

GRADE: B-

Rated R for some language

Running time: 98 minutes

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