Notes on Netflix: Asthma

Asthma – Jake Hoffman, 2014, 15

asthma film photoCredit:

Netflix rates it: 3/5

I rate it: 2.5/5

Hoffman’s Asthma follows Gus (Benedict Samuel), a heroin addict who considers himself ‘born in the wrong age,’ preferring the 70s to the present day New York in which he resides. After impulsively stealing a Rolls Royce Gus picks up his tattoo-artist dream girl Ruby (Krysten Ritter), offering to drive her to a friend’s house in Connecticut rather than letting her take the train.

Gus immediately comes across as a complete train wreck, unwilling to even paint a wall as his job requires. Although he shows elements of care, Gus is not too likable to the viewer. This could be because he clearly doesn’t like himself (the film does start off with a glimpse of his suicidal tendencies, after all), so it is much harder to empathise with him. The only person he seems to care about in some way is Ruby, clearly becoming jealous at the prospect of her being romantically involved with any of her other friends, and admitting his possible love for her after getting high. Scenes are much more enjoyable to watch with Ruby present; her character brings some colour and normality to the film which is otherwise focused on Gus’ somewhat odd, melancholic scenes.

The story-line doesn’t seem the strongest. Although by the end of the film it’s clear that the plot is based around Gus growing as a person and trying to beat his demons, for the majority of the film’s running time it feels kind of directionless. Then again, maybe that’s an intentional reflection of Gus’ life, as he certainly seems to have no goals or direction to speak of. It’s only at about twenty minutes from the end (after an odd, unexpected cameo from Iggy Pop – look out for that!) that the viewer learns a little bit more about Gus’ life and the situations that led to his current state. Only at this point does the viewer get some clue about his character, and it seems like this revelation comes a bit too late for the audience to get truly invested in Gus’ character.

The most striking element of Asthma is the cinematography. The shots are taken beautifully, with a vintage, old-fashioned effect as an aesthetically-pleasing reminder of Gus’ desire to be part of a previous generation. The dreamy soundtrack fits perfectly with the washed-out nature of the camera shots, again hinting at the times gone by that Gus dreams of.

Asthma is a film with more style than substance, with the cinematography being far-and-above the best aspect; anyone who appreciates a well-shot film should give it a try. It is unfortunate that the film lacks a story line with direction, as combining a good story line with the way Asthma has been captured would definitely have reduced the number of negative reviews floating around on the internet. In this case, enjoyment level will definitely depend on what you like to get out of a film, however Asthma is worth a watch.

-Kathi Bundy

If you want to watch and comment with your views here is a link to the film on Netflix:


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