The Air I Breathe

The Air I Breathe


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Fans of Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon will find it a whole lot easier with the release of this film, since it is a sprawling piece, offering four different stories each based on what a Chinese proverb considers to be the lynchpins of life. So, each of the actors at the heart of their story are named after an emotion - with Forest Whitaker branded Happiness, Sarah Michelle Gellar copping for Sorrow, Brendan Fraser representing Pleasure and Bacon, Love.

Subscribing to the 'butterfly effect' scheme of plotting, all four will ultimately see their destinies merge. Of course, initially, they are suitably disparate. Whitaker is a weedy gambler facing a debt he can't pay off, Fraser a gangster's heavy with second sight, Gellar a pop pixie and Bacon a doctor searching desperately for a blood donor.

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Initially, too full of Confucianisms for it's own good, the film settles down and finds its best rhythm in the second segment of the story, concerning Fraser who is forced to babysit the wonderfully risible nephew (Emile Hirsch) of his gangster boss Fingers (Andy Garcia, who easily comes out of this with the most dignity still intact). It is here the film breathes best, away from the stifling pall of gloom that hangs over the other segments.

The film is by no means terrible, its exploration of the ambivalence of emotions is cleverly handled up to a point and the noir look of the Fraser story is also worthy of note. Sadly, however, as the plots begin to coalesce everything becomes far too overwrought and the decision by writers Bob DeRosa and Jieho Lee (who also directs) to wrap everything up in a neat little box, complete with bow, does them no favours. In fact, at the Tribeca press screening I attended the ending was deemed so ludicrous that laughter broke out.

Despite the top-notch cast it has taken more than a year for this film to make it from its Tribeca Film Festival debut to a limited UK release and, given that its weaknesses outweight its strengths it is probably better suited to a Saturday night in with a few glasses of wine than a night out at the cinema.

Immediately after watching it, The Air I Breathe feels vaguely satisfying but the more you unpick the strands the more its failings stand out. For a film with such big plot ambitions, it ultimately lacks sufficient emotional depth. You sense, however, that despite all this, with the right script - written by someone else - Lee has potential as a director.

Reviewed on: 17 May 2008
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Multi-stranded film sees four lives collide.
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Director: Jieho Lee

Writer: Jieho Lee, Bob DeRosa

Starring: Forest Whitaker, Brendan Fraser, Andy Garcia, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kevin Bacon, Julie Delpy, Emile Hirsch

Year: 2007

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Mexico


Tribeca 2007

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