by Angela Dawson Apr 2, 2021,09:00am EDT
Michelle Monaghan reunites with her Gone Baby Gone co-star Casey Affleck in the psychological thriller, Every Breath You Take.
The pair play a couple whose marriage is on the rocks following a fatal traffic accident that claimed the life of their young son. The couple go through the motions of living—Philip (Affleck) is a respected psychiatrist and Grace (Monaghan) is a successful real estate agent—in their upscale mountain home in Northwest Washington. Lucy (India Eisley), Phillip’s teenage daughter from a prior relationship has come home after getting expelled from boarding school for illegal drug possession. She is rebellious as the tension between her incommunicative parents mount. Their lives are disrupted further with the arrival of James (Sam Claflin), a charming yet enigmatic man claiming to be the brother of one of Phillip’s patients who recently committed suicide. James nudges his way into the lives of the emotionally vulnerable, grief-stricken family. The drama is directed by British filmmaker Vaughn Stein (Terminal, Inheritance), from a screenplay by David K. Murray. It is being distributed by Vertical Entertainment.
The youngest of three children, Monaghan grew up in Iowa, the daughter of a retired factory worker and a stay-at-home mom. She studied journalism at Chicago’s Columbia College before turning to modeling, which afforded her a chance to travel the world.
The brunette made her TV debut in a two-episode arc of the short-lived series Young Americans in 2000, and subsequently made her feature film debut in the modeling-world drama, Perfume, a year later. Her breakout role was as the leading lady opposite Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible III. Over the years, Monaghan frequently has been cast opposite Hollywood’s top leading men, including Mark Wahlberg (Patriots Day), Patrick Dempsey (Made of Honor), Robert Downey Jr. (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), Gerard Butler (Machine Gun Preacher) and Matt Damon (The Bourne Supremacy). Her other credits include The Heartbreak Kid, North Country, Netflix’s geo-political thriller Messiah and the acclaimed HBO drama True Detective, in which she co-starred opposite Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson and earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.
Hailing from a traditional, working-class family, Monaghan has gravitated toward independent-minded, working-class characters. A mother of two, she is married to Australian graphic artist Peter White, and spends whatever free time she has with her family. Over the past year, Monaghan has gotten a chance to enjoy an abundance of family time, partly with her relatives in her native Iowa, and for the past few months on her husband’s home turf Down Under.
Reached by phone in Australia where she currently is filming, Monaghan is eager to talk up Every Breath You Take and reuniting with Affleck.
Every Breath You Take is now in select theaters and available on Premium Video on Demand (PVOD).
Angela Dawson: This film reunites you with Casey Affleck. What was it like working with him again after all these years.
Michelle Monaghan: I was really excited to get to creatively reconnect with him. Gone Baby Gone was a really profound experience. It remains, to this day, one of the highlights of my career. I’m extraordinarily proud of that film. When I read this and I knew Casey was involved, I thought, “This is something very different in terms of the dynamic between what these two characters share,” and I thought it would be a great project for us to reunite on. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s one of those things that you’re reminded of—once you get in that creative space—why I wanted to work with him again. I was really reminded of his passion and the depth of his power. I loved that we got to dive into this couple’s disconnected relationship together.
Dawson: You filmed this just before the pandemic, right?
Monaghan: We were fortunate to have completed it 100 percent before all that happened.
Dawson: How did the pandemic lockdown affect you? Did you have projects that were delayed or canceled?
Monaghan: I was grateful that I had just finished a job so I was looking for a little break. I was in a very unique and privileged position, in that regard. When my children’s school shut down, as it did for much of the country, we were able to get some time to get them through home school. My husband works from home and he works for himself so he also was in a unique position. We really just tried to find the silver lining as most everyone has during a most troubling time. We’ve really valued our time together. It also was a time in which I was able to make sure that the kids were contributing to the household in ways that they could, like emptying the dishwasher every day. We all need help around the house. We’re all here together and so I tried to incorporate some life skills into the time we were at home as well. Those skills, fortunately, have stuck around.
We spent most of the time in Los Angeles and then we spent the summer in Iowa, where I’m from, with my parents, in the country. Again, that was an opportunity that we probably wouldn’t have had otherwise—being able to spend time with them. So, it’s been predominantly a lot of family time.
Dawson: You are back at work now, though, right?
Monaghan: I am. I’ve been shooting along the Gold Coast in Queensland. My husband is Australian and our children are half-Australian, so it was really an amazing opportunity for us to come back to Australia to work and spend time with our family. We’ve never had this much time to spend in Australia, so we’re really taking full advantage of the opportunity of being here.
Dawson: In Every Breath You Take, your character, Grace, spends a lot of time swimming in the family pool. Is her passion for swimming metaphorical in some way?
Monaghan: I really had to learn to be a good swimmer, actually. It was written in the script. I love the solitude of that. I love the idea of her trying to wash away something, or swim through something. I guess there’s a metaphor of water washing away her pain. That was her way of finding solace. She’s diving into her grief through that quietude through the monotony of swimming. I found that she was just drowning in her own grief, and that’s how she dealt with it.
There’s a scene in which I scream underwater. It wasn’t written, but she didn’t have a safe place to communicate. She wasn’t able to connect with her husband despite all the resources in his hands, and the tools that he has as a psychiatrist. He was emotionally inaccessible to her, so the idea of her being able to scream underwater to let it all out was kind of a refuge for her.
Dawson: This family is fractured by the loss of a child, regardless of the arrival of an interloper like James, Sam Claflin’s character.
Monaghan: Sadly, there’s been a lot of loss so perhaps this is timely because people have endured through different ways. That’s what this film does: it highlights the way in which individuals cope with grief. Some of them really need to connect with other people and they need to go through the motions, and some people completely shut down. I’ve witnessed that in my own life. I know friends and family who have lost a child. The statistics are very real. It’s very hard to overcome the loss of a child. As an actor, I want to convey the humanity of that and the honesty of that. This film touches on that in a very beautiful and truthful way.
Dawson: Grace is also a stepmom to a rebellious teenage daughter. Your own kids are still pretty young but are you concerned about what it will be like when they reach adolescence and possibly enter that rebellious phase?
Monaghan: I’m not looking forward to that at all. We have a 12-year-old and a 7-year-old, and I know the day is coming despite what I may think right now. Some days I get snippets of that but I assure myself that I can’t take it personally and I have to realize it’s a rite of passage. That rebellious nature—it is what it is.
I thought the role of Lucy was so beautifully played by India (Eisley). You just see how she—and everyone in the family—is just struggling internally and also harboring their own secrets.
Dawson: What do you think of the title which, of course, is also the title of a famous song by The Police.
Monaghan: As I look at all the characters, I just hold my breath. I think it’s such a good title because Every Breath You Take is almost like every breath you hold because you see how traumatized the whole family is. They’re all struggling and striving in their own way to maintain. Lucy’s doing it in her own rebellious way. Anybody who’s vulnerable in this state is very easily manipulated. As Sam’s character comes into their lives, he sees an opportunity to take advantage of them.
Dawson: When do you think you’ll return to the U.S.?
Monaghan: I think we’ll be back in June. We miss home, but we’re really appreciating the time together here in Australia as well.