Written and directed by Amy Koppelman, Julie Davis writes bestselling children’s books about unlocking your fears, but has yet to unlock her own. When her daughter is born, that trauma is brought to the fore, and with it, a crushing battle to survive. Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Finn Wittrock, Amy Irving, Jennifer Carpenter, Paul Giamatti, Britt Robertson and Alysia Reiner.
The topic of postnatal depression is incredibly important and is slowly getting more explored in film and television but choosing it as the topic for your directorial debut is a daring decision. It’s a hefty weight to lay on anyone and here unfortunately the lack of experience shows. There’s a huge complexity and darkness asked of this subject and the directorial style and overall palette don’t have a grasp on either of those. Visually it’s saccharine, it feeds into the child element and provides a very family friendly feel which doesn’t match the complicated and heart-breaking nature to the story. Its style is attempting to explore the journey in an overtly accessible manner and it’s one that isn’t sustainable, and begins to wane which then makes the progression feel like it’s dragging its heels.
It’s an issue which isn’t helped by the tone that the story takes, admittedly it is heart-wrenching and tragic but it sticks to those couple of notes adamantly. There isn’t enough variety or unpredictability, or even just a flicker of hope, to drive the story forward, it just keeps hitting away at you. It’s unrelenting and becomes tough to get through; a barrage of sadness and its occasional leaps to the more dark are a harsh contrast against that family styled visual. As well as the use of a sporadically non-linear timeline which feels unnecessary. The exploration of her relationship with her father also feels underdeveloped, as if there was much more that went unsaid.
However, the performances are all on the money, Amanda Seyfried may often be underestimated but she can certainly tackle much more complex characters than singing daughters in search of their father. She does extremely well to bring the internal struggle of Julie to life, the fight to get better and the inescapability of her problem. Finn Wittrock for the most part is simply the steadfast husband but in the few moments that he truly gets to show the character’s underlying feelings, his performance is moving and honest. Jennifer Carpenter and Paul Giamatti are particularly welcome additions, Carpenter providing a bluntness and fierce nature while Giamatti is sweet, caring and the exact type of doctor you’d hope to end up with.
A Mouthful of Air has such honourable intentions to explore an incredibly important subject but it just doesn’t have a deft enough hand on the wheel to pull it off. It can’t quite delve into the larger complexities at work and finds itself repeating the same note. It’s a great cast and Amanda Seyfried portrays Julie’s struggle superbly but they can’t push this story where it needs to go. It feels as though there was more to unpackage here and it may have been more suited to a miniseries in the style of Lisa Cholodenko’s work on Olive Kitteridge, to really do it justice.