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25 Mar 2023


NextImg:Stream It Or Skip It: 'Every Breath She Takes' on Lifetime, About An Abusive Ex-Husband Who Comes Back From The Dead

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Every Breath She Takes

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Lifetime

Lifetime’s new movie Every Breath She Takes turns a classic story of a traumatized, abused wife and turns it wildly on its head, adding in twists and turns that… well, you might see them coming, but that doesn’t make them any less entertaining. Filled with loads of B-list cameos, the movie is everything you want from a a soapy, silly made-for-TV-movie.

Opening Shot: A woman with a bloody gash on her head and bruises all over her arm hides in. bathroom. A man’s voice calls out, “You can’t hide from me!”

The Gist: Jules (Tamala Jones) is the woman in the bathroom, and when she finally emerges, she confronts the man yelling for her, her husband Billy (Brian White). Jules had just handed Billy divorce papers, and her injuries were the result of his reaction. Billy, abusive and manipulative, is not willing to let Jules go, and as he pleads with her to take him back, she realizes he has set the house on fire. She escapes, he doesn’t, the house explodes, and Jules assumes Billy died in the blaze.

SIX MONTHS LATER…

Jules is attempting to heal from her traumatic relationship and Billy’s death. She’s renovating the home that burned down, she’s become an art teacher, she’s made a new friend in her neighbor Naomi (Katrina Bowden) and she’s in therapy, but she’s haunted by the specter of Billy. Sometimes she thinks she sees him. Sometimes she thinks he’s playing tricks on her, like when she notices someone has changed the temperature on her thermostat to make her home cold the way Billy used to like it.

The visions of Billy haunt her constantly; when she starts dating one of her art students, a man named Paul (Lamon Archey), she thinks she sees Billy while she’s out with him. And when her therapist, Ron, is killed in a hit and run, she wonders if Billy had something to do with it. And while all of this trauma is happening around her, she receives a visit from Detective Charice Walker, played with the highest degree of camp by Tisha Campbell, who accuses Jules of killing Billy, who had been a wealthy entrepreneur, for insurance money. Detective Walker smirks at Jules’s claims of abuse, and she sneeringly tells her that she’s putting a pause on her insurance payout until her murder investigation is finished. No one in real life could be as callous or vindictive as Detective Walker, and Campbell clearly relishes playing a bad guy with a badge.

Jules continues to see Paul who is the opposite of Billy in every way. He listens to her stories of past trauma with a sympathetic ear, he showers her with praise over her art, and he even teaches her self defense to feel more confident. But Jules’s paranoia about Billy gets so out of control that she starts driving Paul and her best friend/accountant Dana (Brooklyn Sudano) away. But then Dana discovers a secret bank account filled with millions of dollars that Billy opened before his death in both his and Jules’s name, and tells Jules that someone has been making withdrawals from it recently. The plot, which was once just about Jules trying to move on from her abusive, probably-not-dead husband, thickens with that information.

And then Billy actually shows up at Jules’s studio. No longer a figment of her imagination, this confirms her fears that he really has been stalking her. He admits he faked his death and that the body that was found was that of a homeless man. He also admits that he was embezzling money so he and Jules’s could run off to the Caribbean to live out their days there. And then Billy kills Jules’s best friend Dana when Dana learns he’s alive, too. Jules and Paul devise a plan to bait Billy into coming to Jules’s house where they’ll call the cops on him, and while they do get him to come, things don’t go as they planned. I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s here that we learn Billy has had a surprise accomplice this whole time. Despite that, Jules (and Paul) win in the end.

Every Breath She Takes - Jules and Billy
Photo: Lifetime

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The whole concept of a woman trying to escape her abusive past was very reminiscent of the Julia Roberts classic Sleeping With The Enemy.

Our Take: Every Breath She Takes is not a great movie, but it is a fun movie. The film is so jam-packed full of unexpected and welcome cameos, from Campbell’s mean detective to Jackée Harry as Billy’s shrewd, grieving mother, to weird, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them appearances from Hairsprays Nikki Blonsky and Queer Eye For The Straight Guy‘s Jai Rodriguez. And Katrina Bowden as Jules’s neighbor with a secret is a nice departure from her most famous role as Cerie on 30 Rock.

The character of Jules is meant to be a classic victim, appearing weak as she’s haunted by visions of her dead husband, and her constant paranoia made her character a bit one-note. But the effective supporting cast and the ridiculous surprise twist at the end made up for Jules’s lack of dimension and constant on-edge nervousness.

Sex and Skin: None.

Sleeper Star: Though she only appears in one scene, Jackée Harry as Linda, Billy’s wealthy, devoted mother is a tour de force. She turns what could have been a throwaway scene into one of the more memorable interactions Jules has in the film, delivering cruel insults alongside dry one-liners in the same sentence.

Parting Shot: The film closes out with a gallery party celebrating the self-portraits painted by Jules and her students. In the final shot, we get a close-up at Jules’s self portrait, which she had grappled with throughout the film, adding color and then taking it away, but in the final version, she appears illuminated, her face lit by all the colors of the rainbow now that she’s finally free.

Most Pilot-y Line: “You know me, butting in is kinda my jam!” Jules’s nosy neighbor Naomi says after showing up unannounced.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Though it can be predictable at times, Every Breath She Takes uses its star power and clever plot twists to its advantage, elevating what would have been an otherwise generic thriller into something more fun and clever than you’d expect.

Liz Kocan is a pop culture writer living in Massachusetts. Her biggest claim to fame is the time she won on the game show Chain Reaction.