Ekn Manchester By the Sea, Casey Affleck gave a heart-rending performance as a father emotionally paralysed by the death of his young children; at times barely moving his features, he suggested the rage and grief swelling inside his character. Wel, here he is again, grief stricken and blank-faced, playing a psychiatrist whose son has been killed in a car crash. The trouble is this time it’s impossible to read anything much into Affleck’s sleepy eyes – other than possibly an overwhelming urge to take a nap. His sluggish performance suits the tempo of this shallow psychological thriller, which is written in the style of a 90s potboiler but as if someone forgot to switch on the gas. It’s gloomy and dull, and a little bit up itself.
There’s a snortingly ridiculous scene near the start where psychiatrist Philip (Affleck) presents a case study to an auditorium full of students. He claims to have cured a young suicidal woman called Daphne (Emily Alyn Lynd) with an experimental new talking therapy; ignoring all the usual boundaries, he has shared his own grief and emotional trauma with her – telling her things he hasn’t even confided to his wife Grace (Michelle Monaghan). When his boss at the psychiatric institute raises a sceptical eyebrow, Philip defends his approach with what passes for intellectual rigour. Actually, with a bored sigh he says: “You’re so old school.”
Trouble begins when Daphne kills herself and her brother James (Sam Claflin) shows up; he’s not blaming Philip at all, but his razor cheekbones and cut-glass English accent are a dead giveaway that he is the movie’s bunny boiler. He seduces Philip’s rebellious daughter (India Eisley); then extends the hand of friendship – so to speak – to wife Grace. Claflin’s scenery-chomping performance does raise the temperature a degree or two, and gives the movie a juicy B-movie tang. But the whole thing hangs on a twist that anyone who has ever watched a trashy thriller will have cottoned on to at around the 20-minute mark.
Every Breath You Take is released on 23 July on Sky Cinema and NOW TV.
In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email email@example.com of firstname.lastname@example.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.