The survival drama is a formulaic composition. Take a fearful individual or group, place them in a hostile wilderness, and observe their disintegration. Sprinkle in some interpersonal concerns and boom! You have a program that almost any audience can follow. However, this does not always equate to quality, and Keep Breathing, Netflix’s latest entry in the category is merely adequate.
.The limited series is a lackluster adaptation of what shows like Lost pioneered – forcing “regular” people to survive in the woods – without the supernatural components that made that show compelling. It is a bizarre mix of action and melodrama that makes surviving in the wilderness even less fascinating than our protagonist’s recollections. The outcome? A six-episode series that is luckily quite repetitive.
Liv (Melissa Barrera), an attorney, has made it her purpose to meet someone in the Canadian wilderness before returning to her regular life, but her flight has been canceled. Desperate, she goes to two men at the airport who are traveling to the same location. They grudgingly agree to bring her along, but catastrophe strikes when the plane crashes. With both men succumbing to their injuries and the plane buried in water, Liv must survive as long as possible on her alone, with little possibility of being rescued.
The work-first attorney attempts to adapt to the situation while contemplating the failures that lead up to this point. Keep Breathing shows the young lawyer’s determination to survive in the wilderness, even if it means burning piles of money in luggage and burying the oxycodone she finds. These actions are interspersed with colorful vignettes that provide a glimpse into Liv’s life before the crash.
It turns out that surviving alone in the bush is difficult. This drama wants you to be reminded of this truth every time you tune in and how hard its protagonist is fighting to stay alive. Liv repeatedly dives underwater to retrieve equipment from the plane, only to come with a bear devouring her food supplies. She first did not know where to seek shelter. Nothing can divert her attention from her mother’s absence and her father’s death…or the skeletons in her closet. Keep Breathing wants us to root for Liv, even though she is the wimpiest survivor.
Liv is resourceful, determining which berries are safe to eat and creating her compass, but she lacks common sense. Why burn mounds of money when there is so much wood available? And why discard perfectly good medication (despite the possibility of side effects) when dangers lurk around every corner? It would be useful should she break her arm or get into a fight with a bear. There is no other explanation for these judgments except that they are more dramatic. A lawyer who is wasting money? Appears a bit obvious.
Of course, a particularly predictable surprise also accompanies women in film and television who are already in tough situations. For spoiler reasons, we will not tell exactly what that reveal comprises. Still, it lays the groundwork for the staid writing I’d anticipate in any story where a strong woman is expected to overcome an insurmountable obstacle.
This plot twist adds little to the story and merely serves as a reminder that if a woman is to star in a series where she must utilize all at her disposal to live, she must also be caring for someone else. Because the last thing a woman should be concerned about is herself, and writing like this just serves reinforcement narrative.
Otherwise, it appears that the remainder of Liv’s time spent attempting to survive also dominated by men. Suppose she is not contemplating the death of her father. In that case, she is thinking about her on-again, off-again relationship with coworker Danny (Jeff Wilbusch) or being tortured by hitchhiker Sam (Austin Stowell).
There is no plausible explanation why Sam was adamant that no one rescues them after the plane disaster. Assuming the men’s Cessna departed from the same airport as Liv, it would have had to speak with air traffic authorities. Despite what Sam claims, there is a record of the flight and its likely destination, which requires too much suspension of disbelief on our part.
As far as the narrative is concerned, there is no incentive to watch this mediocre survival film.
There is also no explanation for a plot device that the sitcom continues to employ: the deceased Sam serving as a negative voice that continues to warn Liv that she will die. Before the accident, she had no personal relationship with Sam, and he served no function other than to serve as a detractor so we could feel good about Liv’s successes. And based on what we know of him during his brief existence, there is little reason to believe he would be thus unfriendly to someone battling to stay alive long enough to seek help.
Positively, Keep Breathing is visually appealing, with excellent camerawork, an innovative score, and strong performances from its main group. It’s unfortunate, then, that it has any real staying power due to a dull premise and a cast of equally dull characters that fail to leave a lasting impression. The best that can be said? Keep Breathing is an average show if you absolutely must watch something.
When a small plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness, the lone survivor must face the environment and her inner demons to survive.