EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE, US, 2021. Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Sam Claflin, Veronica Ferres, India Eisley, Emily Alyn Lind, Vincent Gale, Lilly Krug. Directed by Vaughn Stein. 105 minutes, Rated MA (Strong themes and violence).
There is a whole tradition of thrillers where a stranger comes to a household, ingratiates himself, turns everything upside down, leaving destruction in his wake. This is one of those thrillers.
It is based on a premise that most psychologists would condemn, that a psychiatrist, in sessions with a client, would decide that instead of listening and asking questions, he would actually tell his own life story as a means of drawing out the client’s own story. That being the case, and the client writing down her memories of the conversations, some dire consequences follow.
The film is set in Washington State (though filmed in British Columbia), so there are plenty of rain, clouds and brooding mountains. Just right for the mood for this story. The psychiatrist in question, Philip, is played by Affleck (more prominent as an actor since his Oscar-winning Manchester by the Sea). His life and emotions are complicated by the death of his son in a car accident, the scene with which the film opens. He is married to his second wife, Grace (Monaghan), who is stepmother to his daughter, Lucy (Eisley).
So, we have a household which has been dealing with grief and tension for some years. And the effect on disgruntled teenage Lucy is experimention with cocaine, expulsion from school, and 'Goth' look and lifestyle.
The client kills herself and Philip is subjected to scrutiny by the University Board. And, then the brother of the client arrives – James (Claflin) is grieving, packing up his sister’s house, returning a book to Philip, kindly invited to a meal, Grace offering to help in the sale of his sister’s house, and Lucy intrigued.
James, of course, is a mystery. He is able to exert charm. But, what are his motivations? What are his intentions?
All building up, course, to some high melodramatic confrontations.
Released 22 April
Peter Malone MSC is an associate Jesuit Media