Emma Davie and Moran McKinnon have created one of the year’s most powerful documentaries with I Am Breathing, a devastatingly close-up insight into the final months of Neil Platt, a sufferer of Motor Neurone Disease, which left audiences in stunned silence at the Edinburgh Film Festival this afternoon.
Set almost entirely within the walls of his Yorkshire house and shot with an intimate home movie aesthetic, the film harrowingly depicts the end of Platt’s life as his brain functions slowly diminish from the disease leaving him motionless and, ultimately, breathless. It allows us a heartbreaking access into the harrowing routine of his heroically strong-willed wife Louise who is tasked with keeping him alive and the impact on his toddler son Oliver who’s unable to comprehend the gravity of what’s occurring at such a young and innocent age. A haunting, standout scene that lingers long after I Am Breathing‘s credits shows him playing gleefully in his father’s empty room as his condition worsens and he is taken to a hospice, unaware of the enormity of the situation.
But I Am Breathing’s finest moments come not from its almost unbearably frank portrait of death but instead when it manages to reveal Neil’s innermost thoughts and feelings. From his meditations on the meaning of life and fight to raise awareness through his blog to his reflections on his most cherished memories, it ultimately manages to make a profound statement about what it means to be alive. Like the memory box Neil builds for his son so that he can know his father when he’s gone, it’s the importance of the memories we make, moments we share and things we do with the time that we have that resonate the most come I Am Breathing’s finale.
I Am Breathing shows at the Edinburgh Film Festival on Thursday 20th June and Sunday 23rd June