Warning: Moderate spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.
Every Breath You Take is a psychological thriller that follows psychiatrist Philip Clark (Casey Affleck), whose career is jeopardized when a patient of his involved in a controversial case study takes her own life following a tragedy in his own personal life. When he invites his patient’s surviving brother James (Sam Claflin) into his home to meet his wife, Grace (Michelle Monaghan), and daughter, Lucy (India Eisley), his life and family are suddenly thrown into turmoil, and Dr. Clark becomes fixated on finding and taking down the mysterious force that is tearing his family apart.
Despite the promising cast and seemingly intriguing plotline, this film was missing a certain je nais se quois. The film didn’t do enough to make itself stand out in the genre; I could’ve been watching any other psychological thriller. That’s not to say that the movie itself was bad. There were plenty of things that were done well. Without further ado, let’s dive a little deeper into the ins and outs of Every Breath You Take.
What Was Done Well
The actors did a great job of fleshing out the personalities of their characters in the wake of traumas that are only briefly described. Affleck’s performance initially comes off as bland, but as the story develops, you realize the aloofness is part of his character’s response to the loss of his son and trying to repress his trauma. As the film progresses, you can see his tight handle on controlling his emotions begin to slip away. India Eisley’s performance feels like a blast to the past of her days on The Secret Life of the American Teenager as Ashley Juergens. Despite the years that have passed, Eisley still flawlessly implements the mannerisms and the subtle acting choices that cast her as the perfect angsty teen.
Michelle Monaghan does a good job at showing the glimpses of an empty shell that remains in the wake of the loss of her son while still trying to push through her pain and reconnect her family. The scenes where she lets out torrents of emotions, like recounting the accident, are very well done. Sam Claflin does an excellent job of switching between personas of the charming and helpful grief-stricken brother and the psychopathic menace that he actually turns out to be. There’s something about the unhinged glint in his eyes that you can see from time to time combined with his odd behavior when he’s in his sister’s house throughout the film that warns you his character will turn out to be very dangerous.
THE CAMERA WORK
Full warning, I am in no way knowledgeable about any technical terms in film. Despite this, the camerawork was something that really jumped out.
Filmed in Vancouver, Every Breath You Take presents some, well… breathtaking views, especially where the nature scenes are showcased. Throughout the movie, you’ll definitely find yourself in awe of the sheer beauty found interspersed throughout the film in the form of quiet nature scenes which contrast with the turmoil occurring in the Clarks’ lives. Additionally, the design of the Clarks’ home adds a very pleasing aesthetic touch that both emphasizes their standard of living and the acute loss that is showcased throughout the empty halls. The color scheme also seems to contribute a unique feel to the film that amplifies the feelings that are rolling off of the characters in the narrative. The film presents saturated shots, at times combined with slightly muted lighting, lending the perfect atmosphere to the scenes that are being showcased.
KEEPING MOTIVATIONS A SECRET
In psychological thrillers, there’s always a motivation behind the motivation. That is to say, the charming newcomer is never who they seem to be. This obviously rang true for “James,” what with the multiple red flags in his behavior that were prevalent throughout the movie. However, James’ true motivations proved to be a mystery to me until the very end at the reveal — and I consider myself to be pretty intuitive when it comes to sussing out twists and turns in a narrative. There was much foreshadowing that something wasn’t quite right about Claflin’s character, but the reveal made a bridge to what truly seemed to be a throwaway connection from the beginning of the movie, something that I, personally, wasn’t prepared for.
What Could’ve Used Some Improvement
The main issue to be found in this film is that the plot just doesn’t feel unique. Not unlike Hallmark movies, things can tend to start feeling formulaic if writers don’t do something to make a psychological thriller stand apart from other films, and Every Breath You Take simply didn’t deliver on that front. Unlike Hallmark movies, which don’t pretend to be more than predictably laid out feel-good films, Every Breath You Take didn’t seem to be striving for that feel of an “oldie but goodie,” something that made the plot feel, well, “meh” for the lack of a better word.
You could see the events unfolding in a progression that just felt like it was straight out of any other film from the genre. Again, that’s not to say that it was boring — it was intriguing enough to keep your attention, but not enough to have you truly invested. The film simply didn’t distinguish itself enough in my eyes. At the end of the day, the movie resolved its main arc and left the viewer feeling like everything was tied up in a neat little bow, allowing the viewers and characters alike to move on after everything wrapped up.
While Every Breath You Take may have not exactly had us gasping in surprise, it was overall not a bad watch. If you were settling in on the couch for a long marathon of psychological thrillers, this could definitely be one that rolled across your screen. Whether or not it would be the headliner in the theater, however, is another story.