A single mom is on the run from her abusive boyfriend. That is the catalyst for Carrie Hicks in Why We Breathe. Carrie would work all day at a diner in Nashville and pursue her dreams of being a singer-songwriter at night. Back home was an abusive boyfriend who made life hell for her. In a fit of drunken rage, he accidentally paralyzes Carrie’s daughter, which led him to jail, and Carrie to run to a distant relative in a small out-of-the-way town. It’s there she struggles to make a place for her daughter and hide from her ex. D. Erik Parks’ Why We Breathe is a love letter to small-town America and an example of the true meaning of charity.
Despite a truly exceptional drone shot in the opening and an inspired tracking shot to introduce our lead character, writer/director/cinematographer D. Erik Parks gives a journeyman effort that just barely meets the minimum requirements of his position. The characters are framed properly, and the camera is in focus. That is it. Though looking at their IMDB page, we notice there isn’t a lot there. Clearly, Parks is new at all this, so we can hope that perhaps they will keep honing their craft.
“…a love letter to small-town America and an example of the true meaning of charity…”
The main problem with Why We Breathe is that it just isn’t enough. If it were worse, it would be camp, and we could all enjoy the metaphorical dumpster fire. If it were better, then it would probably win a few awards, or at least be on the Trinity Broadcast Network. But sadly, it is neither. It just is. The writing is just good enough to move the story along. The acting is just good enough to get ideas across. The directing is just good enough to allow you to follow the story. But, just good enough does not mean enjoyable. While the piece has a lot of heart, it fails to engage or entertain. The resulting product is similar to going to a particularly mediocre community theater production. The kind where you can tell that everyone is just trying their best, and you hope no one asks you what you thought of it afterward.
It is not all dreary, however. The script isn’t terrible, though I imagine it could have been improved with a few more drafts. And I suppose I need to check my innate prejudices since I am an atheist, and this is clearly a Christian film. But, unlike many Christian films, it doesn’t paint with broad strokes. The non-believers aren’t evil, and the believers aren’t saints. Everyone in this film is just a normal person trying to get by. And the fact that some of them happen to be Christian is almost incidental to the story. In fact, some of the church members have to be reminded to live up to their ideals when faced with a single mom on the run. Despite its obvious pedigree, Why We Breathe never beats you over the head with its message. And it’s a very simple message. Help out when you can.
As I said, this is an early effort from a new director that does show promise. And while Why We Breathe won’t be on anyone’s top ten lists, I do hope that Parks keeps working at it. There were one or two moments that showed talent and inspiration. In the end, this is a sweet film, a kind film, a film devoid of irony or snark but filled with compassion and hope. It just isn’t a very good film.
"…never beats you over the head with it’s message..."