The Deepest Breath (2023) Netflix Review – An intense, stunning & heart-wrenching documentary

An intense, stunning & heartbreaking documentary

Finding fulfilment and meaning in our lives is ultimately what drives many people through life. For some, like Alessia Zecchini, destiny comes calling at a young age. Alessia always knew she wanted to be a free diver and pursued her dream with reckless abandon.

For others, like Stephen Keenan, finding purpose and meaning requires stepping outside your comfort zone and trying a whole range of different things before something “clicks”.

As fate would have it, Stephen’s relentless pursuit of happiness brought him to free diving, and a collision course with Alessia.

To give much more away about the story would be a disservice to the documentary, which plays out as both a love tale and a breathtaking story about an extreme sport with extreme consequences.

Netflix’s latest documentary, The Deepest Breath, is not an outright examination of the free diving world though, nor is it a comprehensive breakdown of the sport. The way this is filmed makes it seem like the guys and gals are relentless adrenaline junkies, which is a bit disingenuous given the awe-inspiring feats and amount of training that goes into pulling these dives off.

“There are only a few people who understand my dream,” Alessia Zecchini says at one point, and its an apt description for this film too. It’s hard to comprehend what goes into free diving and how much of a high it must be to achieve said feats, although the camera work and sound design certainly goes some way to make up for it.

The cinematography across the board is stunning, with an exquisite use of colour and some excellent long shots to really emphasize the amount of time spent underwater. In fact, the opening shot of the film will immediately grab your attention and keep you watching to find out what happens next.

This works hand in hand with the sound, which relies on heartbeats slowing down or speeding up, depending on the dramatic tension, along with a minimalist score. It’s such a great example of how to visually and sonically enhance a picture.

The format of the documentary is similarly endearing too, jumping back and forth between Stephen and Alessia’s journeys through life before they eventually find one another. It’s here where everything becomes one story and a cohesive tale toward the dramatic conclusion.

I’m not about to spoil what happens here, but the talking head interviews and the idea to use past tense when referring to the dives and for people, adds an extra layer of danger to every scene.

Now, to be fair there is warning at the start of the movie that there’s been re-enacted scenes and a couple of heightened moments for drama, but it’s a minor point and doesn’t take away from the film’s enjoyment. This is an intense, stunning and heart-wrenching documentary, one that’s an absolute must-watch.

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  • Verdict - 8.5/10

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