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Rules of Attraction

On paper, it sounds like a cross between “American Beauty” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” But the tone of “Breathe In,” which opens in theaters on March 28, puts this independent film into a completely different category. Subtle and understated, it stars Guy Pearce as Keith, a music teacher and dutiful dad in his 40s, whose surface calm starts to crack when Sophie, an 18-year-old exchange student, comes from England to live with his family in small-town New York State. The chemistry between them is more complex than that familiar setup suggests. Sophie (played persuasively by Felicity Jones, who’s actually 30) is of course pretty and nubile, but she’s also a prodigy, an embodiment of the music career that Keith yearns for. Inevitably, their mutual attraction shuts out his wife (Amy Ryan) and teenage daughter (Mackenzie Davis), setting off some family drama. Directed by Drake Doremus — whose last movie, “Like Crazy,” won the top prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival — “Breathe In” makes heavy use of handheld cameras and improvised dialogue. Don’t count on too much fireworks, however. The aim here is to tell an old story in a new way, with delicacy and restraint. —John Birmingham

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