Every Breath You Take, 2021.
Directed by Vaughn Stein.
Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Sam Claflin, Emily Alyn Lind, India Eisley, Hiro Kanagawa, and Veronica Ferres.
A psychiatrist, whose client commits suicide, finds his family life disrupted after introducing her surviving brother to his wife and daughter.
There are some interesting questions posed at the beginning of Every Breath You Take regarding ethics in psychological therapy. Casey Affleck plays Philip, a quiet and closed-off, seemingly empty therapist yet to cope with his own tragic experiences in life; the loss of his young boy to a T-bone car accident. Nevertheless, he powers through work continuing to take up clients to exceedingly positive results. The biggest success story comes from Daphne (Emily Alyn Lind), a young woman from a dysfunctional family that has a history of mental health concerns that were passed on to her. She’s now away from a toxic abusive boyfriend, no longer suicidal, and making something of her life. The moral quandary at play here is that to earn Daphne’s trust, Philip consistently opened up about his own bereavement while generally treating his sessions as dual therapy.
Naturally, his superiors take some issue with these methods, but should these real improvements be argued about? Vaughn Stein doesn’t seem to care, and if you have seen his latest effort Inheritance that saw a similarly interesting premise pave the way for Simon Pegg of all people to portray a lunatic, then you already know just how hard and quickly any semblance of thoughtful discussion is going to be dropped in favor of trashy soap opera drama. And although Every Breath You Take has a different writer (this time the script is a debut effort from David Murray that shows its amateurish weaknesses with a mountain of contrivances and utter predictability), it’s in many ways the same damn movie but with a different setup.
Daphne loses one of her best friends to a different kind of automobile accident, and while she seems to be calm and handling the tragedy well following speaking to Philip immediately, she commits suicide later in the night. There are no signs of breaking and entering or any foul play whatsoever. Meanwhile, Daphne’s novelist brother James (Sam Claflin, who basically gets the honors of playing one of Vaughn Stein’s insane and potentially dangerous characters) comes back into town to deal with the loss and so lost the house with the assistance of Philip’s wife Grace (Michelle Monaghan) who just happens to be a real estate agent.
It’s not long before James becomes infatuated and obsessed with Grace developing intentions of being a homewrecker as a form of revenge against Philip, who he seems to think is responsible for Daphne’s suicide. Making matters creepier is his simultaneous stalking and advances of Philip and stepmom Grace’s troubled teenage daughter Lucy (India Eisley), expelled from boarding school for doing a line of cocaine during science class, creepily romancing her and planning a runaway. It’s never really explored in detail what contributes most to her self-destructive tendencies, but I’m not even sure the filmmakers know; she’s just another pawn of a character for James/Sam Claflin to play with, which is supposed to be the entertainment of this movie.
The issue is it’s never engaging considering pretty much the entire narrative of Every Breath You Take is telegraphed from about 20 minutes in, remaining in a constant state of having its final surprises on the tip of its tongue. The word “surprise” is used loosely, and no thriller should spend almost the entirety of his running time with the audience this deep into the loop. I genuinely don’t know if the predictability is intentional or not. Some movies hold cards close to their chest, Every Breath You Take has the front visible and stapled to its forehead.
This time around, not even a gonzo performance against type is enough to salvage things. Inheritance at least had the fun of watching a family of generally terrible people tearing each other apart over money in the process of its mystery (which was also a little less obvious than what’s here), whereas Every Breath You Take drags along with repetitiveness before hitting some of the same final beats but underwhelmingly executed. Yet, Vaughn Stein already has another movie wrapped and has already worked with the likes of Margot Robbie, Lily Collins, Simon Pegg, and another likable cast here. It’s not hard to see why, as there is a sleazy appeal to the work; it’s just a bit bland and a retread of his last film.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com