While watching “The Deepest Breath,” a documentary that palpably conjures the mystery and menace of the deep sea, I found it difficult not to think of the Titan submersible disaster last month. But this film, on Netflix, invites viewers to submerge alongside thrill-seekers unconfined by a vessel: Its subject is the extreme sport of free diving, in which competitors plunge into the depths for minutes at a time without scuba gear.

The story centers on the Italian champion Alessia Zecchini and the Irish diver Stephen Keenan, who met at a 2017 competition in the Bahamas, began training together and engaged in a brief romance. Using astonishing underwater footage and videos from their travels, the film profiles the two adventurers before looking at a cataclysmic tragedy that rocked the free diving community.

As the film’s director, Laura McGann, relays these stories, she deliberately withholds certain material to keep audiences in suspense about whether a death occurred. Extreme risks attend free diving; during their training, Zecchini and Keenan grew accustomed to experiencing blackouts. The film opens with alarming footage of one such incident, using the life-threatening scenario for narrative tension.

This approach might have passed muster had the film matched its apprehensive mood with an equally compelling, clearer window into Zecchini and Keenan’s psychology. But despite hearing from their fathers and friends, we learn precious little about the personal lives of these impressive individuals. When it comes to what drove them, how they associated with others or how they dealt with danger, “The Deepest Breath” offers only surface-level observations.

The Deepest Breath
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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