Unlike typical faith-based Nigerian productions, such as Mount Zion films, that are tailored to strictly propagate the gospel through the depiction of Christian spirituality, Breath of Life walks the line between religion and secularism. Part of the film’s impetus is derived from religious philosophy, yet the film advances towards a heterogeneous audience, spewing themes like love, the futility of life and the purpose of existence, which are just as significant to the secular world as they are to faith-driven folks. But the film’s depiction of romance, most especially the scene where two unmarried lovers kiss, may be frowned at by some defenders of the Abrahamic religions even though such religions only clearly forbid premarital sex and adultery.
Breath of Life leans into the life of a traumatized man whose belief is altered after his wife and daughter are gruesomely murdered by a grudgeful enemy. Written and directed by BB Sasore, the film projects life as a rollercoaster: one moment, it’s all bliss and a dreamy-creamy affair; another moment, cataclysmic changes have trampled on your existence. Through the eye of the narrator, Elijah, the travails of Reverend Timi are exposed in a manner that is realistic, relatable and palpable.
Breath of Life prides itself in exotic visuals, which is its most conspicuous filmic virtue, thanks to cinematographer Ola Cardoso (Banana Island Ghost, The Blood Covenant), visual effects producer Rohit Ranjan and the entire lighting department. Impeccable moments grace our sights from the outset while the narrator recalls the bloom of Timi: the colorful landscape and burial site, graceful aerial shots, impressive lighting in the room where Reverend Timi prays with Princess Alexandra. Commendable is how the film’s basic plot unfolds through the use of a first-person narrator and flashback, and how “breath” and “life”, both of which are components of the title, are played upon at different points in the film. Timi’s underwater endurance is an enjoyable lifetime accomplishment, though it antithetically prepares us to receive his nightmarish longsuffering. The Reverend tries unsuccessfully to take his life, and he only passes away after he has passed on his life and legacy to Elijah. Elijah’s persistent respiratory predicament, which is permanently solved through a generous lung donation, is also a metaphor of the breath of life.
BB Sasore understands the fluidity and volatility of ethereal existence, and that’s why emotions and themes in Breath of Life are constantly swinging. One moment, Timi is an enviable achiever; and the next moment, he’s been through some God-forbiddable circumstance; and then Elijah comes into picture, trying to make sense of his complicated job; and then the young man meets a girl that becomes the center of his world; and then the young man’s world and health almost crashes. Even the ending is a mix of pain and pleasure because it captures the termination of a generation and the beginning of another. Then, there’s a conflict between worldly and spiritual standards: while people are naturally likely to consider Mr Timi a sore loser for not getting over his past and not having a biological child outlive him, his cataclysmic journey is in synchrony with his supposed divine destiny.
Breath of Life comes out well-cooked in sounds, which is the artistic icing on the cake for the visuals and plot. The film’s soundtracks and sound effects serve as conduit for the flurry of emotions that besiege viewers. 121 Selah’s song Shoe Maker heralds Reverend Timi’s return from Cambrdige with his family. The lines “Shoemaker where you dey I need you now/I call you because I know say na you fix am”, in the manner of soothsaying, hint at some unforeseeable turmoil. Kaline Akinkugbe scores the original soundtrack for the film, as the soulful rhythm chaperones the iconic ending where we see Elijah attempt to reprise Timi’s peak achievement of staying underwater for long. Except for a few questionable moments on screen, such as the easy murder of Baby Fire and that annoying pseudo-chivalrous scene where Elijah withstands the rain and spends the entire night outside just to see the love of his life, the film is an aesthetic triumph and easily one of Nollywood’s best shots taken in the dying moments of year 2023.