‘Every Breath You Take’ Review
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, Every Breath You Take, 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 psychiatric institute and she’s a local realtor. 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 each other. 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. 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.