When we first meet the Reynolds – a middle-class New York State couple waiting for their eldest daughter Lauren (Mackenzie Davis) to leave the nest – they seem ordinary, untouchable, even uninteresting.
Music teacher dad Keith (Guy Pearce) makes tuna melts for lunch, mum Megan (Amy Ryan) sends out family newsletters to “show that we care”.
But the awkward photograph they pose for in the first scene shows only the love, not the scars. And the beauty of director Drake Doremus and writer Ben York Jones’ follow-up to Like Crazy is that it reveals both in fine detail.
Comfortable, but starting to cool towards each other after years of marriage, Ryan and Pearce have different ideas about what they should do with their new-found freedom.
She’s happy to chauffeur Davis around, collecting cookie jars; he wants to move back to NYC and be a musician.
In the meantime they take on an English exchange student Sophie (Felicity Jones), a talented pianist who opens up the cracks in their world just by being prettily inscrutable – and in many ways, just by being there.
Calm on the surface, but fraught with unspoken feelings beneath, this is an engrossing film, beautifully made.
It has a sophisticated sense of the quiet dramas underpinning its characters’ (often terrible) decisions, even if Ryan’s role is so lightly sketched that we inevitably side with Pearce and Jones (both brilliant) when they start to get too close.
In a scene that could have come straight from one of the Victorian novels she’s reading, Jones first catches Pearce’s eye while playing the piano in class, a simple tune giving way to brash hammering brilliance, like passion re-awakened.
Otherwise, this is a love affair completely without fireworks, and all the more convincing for it. It may not sound much, but it’s a rare drama confident enough to offer a portrait of normality, then let things elegantly unravel.