So in my efforts to extend out to the Film Twitter community, I decided to do some mass following and reaching out. In my efforts, I ran into Paul Mackie, an Indie film producer who was looking for film bloggers to review his movie.
Now I don’t usually do this. As I’ve stated in my review of Retter’s Youth on the March, I don’t really make it a point to review movies of beginner film makers. This is mainly because I don’t believe in giving extra credit to movies for any reason, and so my rating system has a slight possibility to be skewed against them. Also, it’s hard to want to review something objectively if you have connected with someone, even if it’s on social media (Case in point: Retter and I no longer follow each other on Twitter).
So I told the guy that if he wanted someone to review his movie, I could do it, but that I would give it a bad grade if I thought it deserved one. This didn’t seem to sway him, and he sent me the movie. I liked his response, and I went in hoping that I would really like his film.
His film, Breathe Easy, is an apocalyptic movie. To say that it’s an “Indie Film” like in the sense of Raw, A Ghost Story, or even Youth on the March, would be incorrect. The production value of Breathe Easy reminded me of short films that I did with some of my friends years ago. Obviously, this means that there are certain elements in this movie that I WOULD have criticized if it was a big budget project, but I won’t because I understand its budgetary limitations. Everything I’m about to criticize about this film is something I think would’ve been within their control to fix.
ALRIGHT, Let’s get on with the review. The review is extremely long because there is A LOT to talk about.
Breathe Easy is a Super Indie film that is directed by 20 people spanning across 10 different countries. That alone both impressed me and worried me. It impressed me because I rarely see that kind of collaboration on that kind of scale. It worried me because I wondered how 20 different directors could create a cohesive vision that stayed on topic and could get all the outward facts straight about their supposed apocalypse.
The short answer is that they didn’t.
Breathe Easy is an absolute mess in regards to tone and story consistency.
The “Core Scenes” take place in the UK. They follow about four different story lines and take up a plurality of the screen time. The four stories are the following:
- A pair of British lads who are both concerned, but also taking the piss out of the fact that the end of the world is happening.
- ANOTHER pair of British lads who are also both concerned, but also taking the piss out of the fact that the end of the world is happening.
- Three female witches trying, and failing, to perform seances and various witchcraft stuff (all three of which never acknowledge that an apocalypse is happening, to my recollection).
- The British Prime Minister and his army Major screwing about.
All four of these plot points seem to have the primary desire to be humorous, and thus treat the apocalypse as a bit of a comedy. It’s the type of British-guys-making-dry-and-sarcastic-quips kind of comedy you’d see from classical Guy Ritchie films.
But most of the dialogue in these segments seem to be designed solely to set up jokes that other people make, often at the expense of one of the aforementioned lads (all four of which kind of have interchangeable personalities). Thus, much of the dialogue seemed extremely inorganic, and I was often confused as to how certain conversation bits came about.
The three witches shouldn’t have been in the film. They seemed like a huge non-sequitur. BUT, if they did want to add them in there, they should have at least been a part of the actual apocalypse plot.
I actually laughed at some of the Prime Minister bits, but most of the time, I often thought these scenes were missed opportunities (also, that South Korea joke? I’m pretty sure you meant North Korea was the one that took responsibility for the terrible clouds. North Korea is the one with the fat, crazy dictator. Maybe I’m wrong, but if I am, then the joke doesn’t make sense).
In my opinion, I think these scenes should’ve been cut down and focused more on the four lads, and then work on making their dialogue organic, and their characters more defined, and then make the Prime Minister slightly more ridiculous, and the army major more serious and rigid. But that’s just me.
There are some bits that take place in America, but I found these scenes to be boring, and they tried too hard to be funny. It’s one guy talking on an old phone to a friend. The plot twist for this one somehow made these scenes even more useless…
… but not quite as useless as the scenes that took place in Germany, where three friends, for almost no reason, discover the wonders of streaming on the internet for some unknown audience. These scenes were utterly forced and painful to experience. I honestly can not justify any reason for why these scenes exist, and every time they cut to their story, I wanted them to be over. I would have to think about it (because there are so many pieces to this movie), but I’m almost positive these scenes were the worst.
The movie also follows a guy in Hong Kong. He’s vacationing there and vlogging about his experiences during the apocalypse. That part had potential, but that segment is quickly forgotten and there was never enough time for it to become interesting.
There’s some scenes that happened in Nova Scotia… and they were apparently forgettable because I could not tell you what happened in those scenes if I tried.
There’s a small segment that happens in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s introduced at the beginning, and is forgotten after about twenty minutes.
Next, we have the Bulgaria scenes. Apparently Bulgaria was hit the hardest, because they seemed to take the apocalypse the most seriously. Aside from the UK bits, these seemed to have the most development out of all the stories. It’s still not fully developed enough to be a full story, but what can you do?
The Berlin segment was promising, but once again, not enough time was put into its story, and it was done away with before anything interesting happened.
There is precisely one scene that happens in Canada. It should not have been included in the movie.
There’s another bit, also taking place in the UK, where it follows two deranged men, one of them who tries to rape a woman passing by, and then when she fights him off and leaves, the two guys kill each other. It was quite a dark, nihilistic part of the movie… and considering many of these segments treat this apocalypse with no seriousness or sincerity, it was quite a jarring experience having it in there.
But when it wasn’t being dark and nihilistic, it was getting extremely preachy about certain things, to the point where I cringed in my chair.
There is also exactly one scene that happens in India, where a guy sends a message to his mother. It’s shot vertically, and the guy discusses his views on the dehumanization of mankind during tragedies. The dialogue was far from subtle, but at the very least, this guy’s performance would be one of the few that I would call “convincing”.
There is also a bit in Mexico. These scenes were probably the best shot in regards to lighting, tone, etc. The scenes don’t amount to much, and I wish they tried to expand on that guy’s character.
After all of the parts I mentioned, there’s still so many segments that I haven’t even touched on, even after all this time. But I won’t bother talking about them because this review is long enough, and I have a lot more to say.
The best description for the soundtrack of Breathe Easy would be “thoughtlessly utilized”. There would be moments in the film where people are walking around doing nothing special, and there would be heavy rock music in the background. Then another scene would happen, and the music would stop, only for another similar sounding heavy rock beat to start playing. And there’s not really a rhyme or reason for the soundtrack to happen. It never really emphasizes any tone, it doesn’t necessarily help the scenes, and sometimes it made the dialogue extremely difficult to hear. The only change in music would be when the American guy was talking, and they would play this goofy-sounding music.
It seems like all of the directors had a very loose definition of what exactly was going on in the apocalypse. Everybody seems to agree that there’s an “apocalyptic cloud” around, but they’re never in agreement about where it is, how big it is, if there’s more than one, etc. Sometimes, it would rain down and cause people to commit suicide, or plant bombs in train stations, or go insane. Sometimes it would cause people to die of sickness. Sometimes, it was an alien ship causing the clouds. Sometimes the cause was global warming. Every director seemed to differ about what exactly was going on, and every director seemed to treat their version of events as fact. It was odd and irritating.
Essentially, I like the idea of multiple directors over multiple countries working together to make one story. But 20 directors is simply too many.
Here’s my opinion on what would’ve made it better, if anyone is interested:
They should’ve kept most of the core UK scenes as well as Berlin, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, Mexico, and India. These scenes had the best ideas, in my opinion.
They should’ve trashed the parts in Germany, America, and Canada.
The other scenes… well, I guess it would depend, because I didn’t like or hate any of the ones I didn’t mention.
Once the best scenes were chosen, the ideas should be expanded upon, and they should all find ways to be able to connect to each other’s narratives. And for the love of God, they should all be in agreement about what exactly the apocalypse is doing.
Right now, aside from a few exceptions, the only real things that are tying them all together is that they all agree that an obscure apocalypse is happening, they all seem to have small themes around distrust of the government as well as disdain for religion.
Again, I thought this was a very interesting concept, but the entire movie is bloated. There was so much stuff jam packed into this narrative that they were introducing new characters and countries an hour and a half into the film. It ended up being exhausting, confusing, and incredibly disjointed.
The core UK guys had control over the ending. So of course, they take the piss out of the entire thing. I thought it was kind of funny, but fifteen minutes before that, there were other people shown around the globe being attacked, driven out of their homes, murdered, raped, etc. So the fact that the ending was intentionally stupid seems to have taken the wind out of a lot of people’s ideas. It’s the perfect example of just how much all of these directors weren’t on the same page.
Because of this, by the way, aside from the core UK scenes, there is never any resolution to any of our other 19 story lines.
In this final paragraph, I want to stress that I don’t say these things out of animosity towards anybody who made this film. I also don’t want to come across as being unfair. I say this because I know I’ve just given a lot of criticism towards this film. As I’ve said before, I’ve only really put in the criticisms that I think were within the movie makers’ control. I liked the concept. I didn’t like the execution.