As I watched the documentary The Deepest Breath, a vivid reminder of the mysteries and threats of the deep sea, I couldn’t help but think of Titan’s disaster last month. Streaming on Netflix, however, the film invites viewers to dive without being trapped in a ship with thrill-seekers. Its subject is the extreme sport of freediving, where competitors plunge into deep water for minutes at a time without scuba equipment.
The story centers around Italian champion Alessia Zecchini and Irish diver Stephen Keenan, who met at a competition in the Bahamas in 2017, began training together, and had a brief romance. Using astonishing underwater footage and travel videos, the film profiles two adventurers before they face the catastrophe that rocked their community during their free dive.
The film’s director, Laura McGann, deliberately withholds certain material in telling these stories in order to keep the viewer on edge as to whether the deaths have occurred. Freediving is extremely risky. During training, Zecchini and Keenan have become accustomed to experiencing blackouts. The film opens with disturbing images of such incidents, utilizing life-threatening scenarios for narrative tension.
This approach might have worked if the film’s unsettling atmosphere had matched the equally compelling and clear window into the psychology of Zecchini and Keenan. However, despite what we’ve heard from their fathers and friends, we know very little valuable information about the personal lives of these impressive people. When it comes to what drove them, how they interacted with others, or how they dealt with danger, The Deepest Breath offers only a surface-level observation.
PG designation. Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes. Watch it on Netflix.