In 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. Well, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. 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.