Breathe (2024) Film Review
Variance Films / Warner Brothers
Breathe is a 2024 sci-fi thriller feature film written by Doug Simon and directed by Stefon Bristol. The movie follows a mother and daughter, barely surviving in an oxygen-less world, who must put aside their issues to come together to protect each other when intruders arrive and want to know the inner workings of their bunker.

Breathe takes viewers into a dystopian future where oxygen is scarce. Directed by Stefon Bristol (the filmmaker behind Netflix’s See You Yesterday), the film explores a world where survival hinges on each breath. At the forefront of Breathe are two women of color — mother and daughter, played by Jennifer Hudson and Quvenzhane Wallis. Their presence in the film as protagonists is refreshing and long overdue in the predominantly white-washed realms of sci-fi and thriller genres. Historically, both genres, but particularly science-fiction, have side-lined or ignored people of color, with women of color being non-existent in the realm of sci-fi cinema. Hudson and Wallis’ portrayal as the central protagonists is a much-needed step forward in the American film industry's endeavor of diversity and inclusion.

The plot of Breathe feels familiar and unoriginal, relying heavily on clichés and predictable twists that do little to elevate the story. The tale of survival in a post-apocalyptic world falls flat, offering nothing particularly innovative or thought-provoking to the genre — a missed opportunity to explore building its premise and characters. One of the film’s glaring weaknesses lies in its script, littered with uninspired dialogue and some narrative inconsistencies. Despite the talent of its ensemble cast, ranging from satisfactory to subpar performances, Jennifer Hudson’s casting feels particularly misguided, leaving audiences questioning the direction of her character and her motives for being in this film. Conversely, Quvenzhane Wallis shines brightest among the cast (even though she is the youngest), delivering a performance that injects much-needed depth and emotion into the film. Sam Worthington’s character, Lucas, also suffers from underdevelopment, serving as little more than a plot device to move the story forward. Breathe struggles with issues of world-building and narrative coherence and fails to establish a convincing sense of place and logic within its diegesis, Viewers are left grappling with unanswered questions and inconsistencies that detract from their immersion in the film’s verisimilitude. It leaves us largely unbothered about the safety and survival of the characters.

Breathe is a film of missed opportunities. Despite its shortcomings, it may still find an audience among those seeking basic and unchallenging entertainment. Its premise, while lacking in originality, offers enough intrigue to sustain interest for those willing to overlook its narrative flaws, weak script, and barely satisfactory performances that ultimately prevent it from reaching its full potential. The film serves as a reminder of the importance of diversity in storytelling, Breathe falls short of delivering a truly compelling cinematic experience.

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