Under the influence: sleep apnea review on Netflix

This blue dream

There were several reasons to hope for a good surprise with Under the influence. The first obviously being the fact that the film is inspired by a true story that is as tragic as it is fascinating. Indeed, it is an assumed tribute to the freediver Audrey Mestre. A news item of which the adaptation was to be entrusted to James Cameron at one time, for a biographical film titled The Dive.

Of course, we did not expect from director David Rosenthal (guilty of the remake of Jacob’s Ladder) that he lives up to a Cameron. However, the subject has immense dramatic potential. Especially since the film can count on Camille Rowe, accustomed to aquatic adventures since The Deep House. The actress finally finds a leading role that she richly deserves and does her best to embody a heroine who is both fragile and determined.

When your movie doesn’t deserve you

What strikes you first when you discover Under the influence, it is the beauty of the images. A regular collaborator of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, director of photography Thomas Hardmeier does an admirable job. Not only does he manage to capture all the beauty of the landscapes, but his treatment of light, play of shadows and aquatic sequences commands respect.

Unfortunately, this technical success is mitigated by the superficiality of the staging. Under the influence is a pretty empty shell, reproducing an aesthetic mannerism worthy of a perfume advertisement. The plans may be carefully worked out, but they are never vectors of narration. No symbolic statement, no relevance related to the psychological evolution of the characters, in this film nothing is told by the image.

Under the influence : Photo Sofiane Zermani, Camille RoweThe evidence is in front of you

Fianso in shape

The film’s major problem is its calamitous writing on all levels. One could largely devote a full review to listing every dialogue that was awkward, contrived, or just plain missed. The humor doesn’t work (hard to get over the “Greek Prison” pun), the dialogues drown us under forced exposition in a desperate attempt to characterize the characters.

But the worst is probably the pseudo-philosophy of extreme sport which offers us nuggets like “In life, there are those who tan and those who have a date with the sun”. Under the influence perhaps dreams inspiring and spiritual as point break but ends up looking like a fitness influencer story.

Under the influence: Photo Sofiane ZermaniDon’t give a fuck about your little broken heart

To make matters worse for the laughable dialogues, the writing of the characters does not raise the level. Unable to give them the slightest consistency, David Rosenthal turns them into simple functions: the tormented heroine with a difficult past, the dangerous coach and lover, the grieving mother, the sensitive best friend, etc. For lack of a character to embody, a good part of the cast logically misses the film. At the top of the list, Sofiane Zermani alias Fianso, whose histrionics becomes almost entertaining.

But beyond its lack of depth, the scenario of David Rosenthal does not even address his basic subject. We have to wait for the last 20 minutes of the film to finally be entitled to a sequence that makes us experience a real dive. All the other competitions are filmed from the outside, without ever recreating the slightest danger – which however seemed obvious when tackling an extreme sport of this kind. We painfully cross 1h40 of randomly aligned scenes to finally be entitled to something decently effective.

Under the influence : Photo Sofiane Zermani, Camille RoweAre you also expecting this to end?


As often with Netflix releases, we leave Under the influence with this unpleasant feeling of having endured a tailor-made product for the platform’s algorithm. The film is sold as a sulphurous romance. But at this level of modesty and non-eroticism, we would take 50 shades of gray for a subversive masterpiece.

Rosenthal seems not to have understood that it is not enough to randomly add three sex scenes in his feature film to create a torrid alchemy between his characters. At no time does this couple seem credible. The very first sex scene, which occurs without the slightest hint of complicity or even desire, perfectly illustrates how this never carnal eroticism was designed to panic the average Netflix consumer able to be exhilarated by 365 days.

Under the influence : Photo Sofiane Zermani, Camille RoweA hot couple (no)

Another theme supposed to attract attention, Under the influence decides after almost an hour of story without stake to switch to a portrait of a toxic man. Here again, there was theoretically enough to do something exciting. One can think of the fascinating complexity of the very beautiful Slalom by Charlène Favier, who plunged into the twists and turns of an unhealthy relationship between a coach and a young sportswoman.

Unfortunately, David Rosenthal never has the necessary finesse to provide an interesting perspective on the issue. This toxicity is like everything else: superficial. It’s only abouta box checked in an attempt to make the film more relevantin step with the times. Under the influence will remain a missed opportunity which will only have the effect of making us reassess The big Blue. Definitely insufficient to take our breath away.

Under the influence is available on Netflix since September 9, 2022.

Under the influence: poster

Under the influence: sleep apnea review on Netflix