Survival is one of the primal instincts in all life forms, and for humans, it comes with a lot more than just doing what needs to be done in order to achieve the goal of survival. Other animals and life forms only have to go with their instincts, and that is it. However, because of the way we humans are wired, we need to think about the moral implications and about how others perceive what we do. Being human is complicated, and getting into a life or death situation sometimes isn’t as simple as it should be.
Because survival is such a universal feeling, storytellers from all around the world have taken notice that it is also one of the best concepts to use when telling a story. Putting the protagonist of the story in a hostile setting, and setting them loose in the wild, creates as many crazy and tense situations as possible. The wild isn’t even the only place where you can tell these stories. For example, Alfonso Cuarón, took us to space with Gravity and showed us just how amazing this same story can be on the far frontier.
Netflix and creators Martin Gero, and Brendan Gall are ready to give audiences a new survival story. This time, the story is a bit more traditional than Gravity, but it has its own twist so that it can feel unique in the current streaming environment. Keep Breathing is their newest creation, and it arrives on Netflix ready to be the perfect binge-watch. The show consists of only 6 episodes of about 40 minutes each, and you can watch them all in just one sitting. This is the type of show Netflix excels at.
But is it any good? You can watch it all in just a few hours, but is it worth that time investment? The answer is yes. Keep Breathing might not be the best Netflix has to offer in its content library, but it is very well-made. The plot progression is fast and deep enough so that you care about what happens to the main character during her journey. The show also tries to do several things at the same time, and that might rock the boat a bit when it comes to consistency.
Keep Breathing tells the story of Liv, a successful lawyer that finds herself lost in her job. She is defined by it, and her life has become a mess because of it. However, one day, when desperate to make an appointment, Liv makes a rushed decision and seats herself on a plane. The bad news is that the plane crashes in the middle of nowhere, leaving Liv, with only a few resources, and her will to survive as the only tools in this cold and dangerous place.
Keep Breathing is a Warner Bros. Television production, which makes you wonder why this isn’t on HBO Max instead of here. Nevertheless, the show stars Melissa Barrera, Jeff Wilbusch, and Austin Stowell. Barrera had a breakthrough role in the film In the Heights, and from there she hasn’t stopped. She made an early appearance this year as the protagonist in the new Scream film, and now she is the protagonist of a show that basically relies on her from beginning to end to make the story compelling.
Barrera manages to take on the challenge and also pass it with good grades. The role of Liv is a complex one. Liv isn’t precisely a very lovely or likable character at all, especially at the beginning of the story. Barrera has to go through this entire journey, playing a character that most viewers would never have as a friend if they got the choice. And yet, as the episodes melt into one another, Liv becomes more and more likable, not because the character changes, but because we find out more about her.
While most survival stories focus themselves on the survival aspect of the tale, not running away from the situation at any moment in order to create tension, Keep Breathing splits its storyline in two. The story splits between Liv being lost in the woods and Liv before the crash. It is in the past timeline where we get most of the character development, as we see Liv going to work, dealing with her family, and her own emotional issues.
This splitting of the story into two does rob the story of keeping the momentum, of the survival aspect of the show. But in retrospect, it was a good choice. It would be somewhat unrealistic if Liv kept getting into more and more trouble with each passing second. Instead, in those downtimes when Liv can only walk around and hope for the best, the show jumps to the past and shows us something about her.
The revelations come at a good pace, and while none of them are revolutionary, they do a good job of transforming Liv, from an unlikable stranger, into someone worth knowing. We might even know someone like Liv in real life, or maybe we can see something of ourselves in her. This progression in how we see her is the best thing about the show, and it is worth watching just for that.
Keep Breathing is an excellent watch. It might not be very memorable, but it is without a doubt quite entertaining, and it will keep you busy for an entire afternoon, as you learn how Liv gets out of this mess. If you need to watch something good and fast, this is a perfect choice.