The Netflix series “Keep Breathing” is unsure of what kind of programme it wants to be. On the surface, it appears to be a normal survival story. Melissa Barrera portrays Liv, a disgruntled lawyer who battles for survival after her chartered jet crashes in the jungle. The six-part series features a lot of drama between people and the environment. Liv hunts for food runs into a bear and learns how to start a fire.
I found myself holding my breath as well because so much of this drama is forcing her diving to rescue supplies. Additionally, the programme does a fantastic job dramatising the unique dread of becoming lost in the woods, the insanity of wandering in circles, and the worry of never finding a way out. However, Liv’s answers might occasionally be unnecessarily intricate. She remembers how to make a compass in a flashback from her days as a girl scout. Which, I suppose we all have a few sporadic nuggets of information to pull upon in dire circumstances. But she does it before realising that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, which is a far more logical and low-tech method.
By interspersing its wilderness drama with montages that discuss facts about nature and humanity’s position within it, the programme also loses its suspense. These facts, however, are hardly revolutionary—imagine discovering you need to boil water after observing a number of animals urinating in a body of water. The way the programme portrays Liv’s mental process is inadvertently humorous since it is more stupid than informative.
But by linking the heroine’s mission to unintended pregnancy, “Keep Breathing” does the character a disservice. She fights to survive because of the foetus she is carrying. She even takes out the ultrasound during really trying times and just stares at it. Women are more than just empty uteruses waiting for a kid to complete them. It seems both simple and absurd that career-driven Liv would be so thoroughly upended by a pregnancy that she would go on her first and most disastrous vacation. She should be more nuanced than that.
However, here is where both “Keep Breathing” and its audience genuinely fall short. The latter part of the show turns into a body-punishment exercise as Liv sustains a slew of increasingly serious wounds. The narrative’s obsession with punishing Liv at the end after mostly preserving her for the first two acts verges on sexism. The physiological development, survival lessons, and even wider links to the universe are all put on hold in favour of seeing Liv deteriorate worse. There is no fun or overarching purpose to it. It is only the spectacle of dismembering a strong lady.
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