Writer/director Robbie Studsor’s Shallow Breath does a lot with its five minutes to set up an unsettling tale with a strong sense of claustrophobia. Belinda Lack stars as Bridget, tormented by phantom sensations of drowning since receiving life-saving CPR at a swimming pool. The film shows her penning an unusual request to the woman who resuscitated her (Casey Lane Maddix) in hopes of remedying her situation.
“Belinda Lack stars as Bridget, tormented by phantom sensations of drowning…”
Bridget’s letter is recited as voice-over, so Lack doesn’t speak on camera. As such, her performance can feel boxed in by the staging, with repetitive motifs such as close-ups of her wringing hands drawing attention to themselves. Unless I’m misunderstanding her plan, the letter also presents logical issues. Without giving too much away, it struck me that her mailed request for a dangerous rendezvous would be headed off before time once received. Perhaps if her missive had been electronic with the time frame tightened up, it may have made more sense and provided a chance for some speech on camera. This feels like a missed opportunity as Lack still manages to telegraph a great deal of anxiety and craziness physically, and I found myself wanting more from her. I wondered if Cassavettes would have pinned down one of his leads this way. What we get feels attenuated, led by the lens, with performance pushed inadvertently to one side.
Studsor has ambitions for a reshoot as a horror feature in the vein of Hereditary. That’s intriguing as the premise could support it. Shallow Breath feels to be at its best then as a trailer for a film that has not yet entered production, suggesting it isn’t quite whole, and making it a challenge to recommend, despite some good photography and effective action otherwise.
Definitely an interesting piece, nonetheless, and worth expanding upon in one form or another.
"…ambitions for a reshoot as a horror feature in the vein of Hereditary."