Director: John Real I Runtime: 1hr 45mins I Country: Italy
A rousing claustrophobic thriller juxtaposed with a cathartic relationship drama
An expert geologist meets with an unfortunate accident when she falls in an open rocky crevice. As she struggles to survive her ordeal, while battling through inner demons, her fight becomes much more than that of mere survival.
Director John Real's latest feature film, Breath is essentially two films in one. While on the surface it is an immensely captivating thriller about a woman struggling to crawl out of a hole in the ground, under the layers it is a complex drama about relationships, grief and finding peace.
Rachel Daigh portrays the titular character of Lara, a headstrong and capable geologist, a loving mother and a doting daughter. As she finds herself in a situation, she was clearly not prepared for, she only has her skills and instincts to try and survive. Rachel is also the narrator of this story, though as she mentions "If you think I'd survive since I'm narrating this, you are making a very big assumption". As a viewer we spend the majority of the 95 minutes runtime of the film with Rachel and the film maintains the air of dread and claustrophobia throughout. Breath is not an easy watch. Director John Real makes the viewer and unwitting participant in Rachel's ordeal and mounts the tension in a series of escalating events that will make you hold your breath at multiple points.
The film excels in nearly all technical departments. The cinematography, editing, music, production and sound design all work in harmony to create a sense of constant dread and mounting peril. There is limited use of practical effects and CGI and while the results are a little hit or miss at times, the intelligent direction and tight pacing of the film ensure that they are never distracting from the story. Director John Real displays a rare mastery of craft in crafting thrilling and emotional moments with equal dexterity.
As for the performances, Rachel does an excellent job as Lara in a role that must have certainly been quite emotionally taxing and physically demanding. As she stumbles, falls, fights, cries and contemplates in her unfortunate isolation, she makes you feel the weight of every emotion. Veteran actor James Cosmo (Game Of Thrones) delivers a powerhouse performance as Rachel's father, Nick. The gravitas and empathy he brings to life as the loving and supportive parent and grandparent is especially heartwarming. Perhaps the only performance that falls a bit short is that of Neb Chupin as Adam. Compared to the rich emotional quotient that Lara and Nick bring to the story, Adam comes across as slightly stilted. His inadequate character arc doesn't help either. As an ensemble though, the cast works well to weave a tight and gripping drama and end of the day that's what matters.
Overall, Breath is an evocative thriller and a riveting drama about survival, hope and self-discovery. The film is currently playing in select film festivals worldwide.