Right after Inhale ended, I declared that it was a failure. How could it end like that? How could these people go through this journey, only to conclude in that way? I thought about it for a while and determined that my conclusion (it’s a failure) was correct, but not in the decision one character made in the end, but how the build-up to that decision wasn’t presented to us well within the film.
Obviously, I can’t tell you how Inhale ends, but I’ll tell you that it involves a moral choice. The choice that the character ends up picking doesn’t make sense given the way that he’s been shown to us up until this point, and then comes from out of nowhere. I was initially mad at the decision, but taking a step back made me realize it wasn’t at the decision — it was at the film for not allowing me to understand why that decision was made.
The plot revolves around a family who, in the film;s opening scene, has withdrawn all of the money in their bank accounts and are preparing for some sort of trip. As it turns out, only the father, Paul (Dermot Mulroney) is going to be leaving. His wife, Diane (Diane Kruger), and daughter, Chloe (Mia Stallard) are going to be staying home in America. He’s going to Mexico in order to locate a man named Dr. Navarro who supposedly can be bribed in order to get to the top of an organ transplant list. See, Chloe’s lungs are degenerating, and the American health system isn’t getting her the help she needs.
For the first half of the film, our story is told in a non-linear fashion, switching back between the events leading up to the decision to head ot Mexico, and the actual trip. The flashback storyline is essentially telling us how the couple figured out that Dr. Navarro even existed, while the present plot shows us the roadblocks that he has to get through in order to locate the man possibly willing to perform the surgery needed to save Chloe’s life.
In Mexico, Paul encounters a lot of things that he doesn’t expect or plan for. He has a lot of money, sure, and he’s willing to spend it, but gang members, corrupt police officers, street kids with guns, and uncooperative people end up delaying his trip. He was hoping for a quick in and out, but he ends up having his life endangered far more frequently than is comfortable. Remember that his daughter’s lung could collapse at any moment, as she has already reached the final stage of degeneration. Every second should count, but because of all of these obstacles, he is nowhere as fast as he’d like to be.
He is determined, which plays to his advantage. Unfortunately, his daughter’s life is the only thing that drives him forward in life, leading to a boring character to follow around for the better part of 90 minutes. There is nothing else to this guy. He wants to save his daughter, and doesn’t have time for anything else. I get that, but it’s not fun to spend time with someone like that. His wife is the same, despite not having anything to do other than make sure Chloe doesn’t get excited or stressed out (that can lead to lung failure).
Actually, she has no excuse, and also serves no purpose except to not make Paul look like a bad father by leaving his terminally ill daughter with a babysitter. She ultimately doesn’t factor into the equation at all — she’s stuck at home while Paul does the real hero and detective work — and her character is just as bland despite having no reason to be. If some humanity were to be introduced into the film, it should have come from her, or from Paul as he struts the streets of Mexico and encounters all of the poverty that’s down there.
There’s even a point during Inhale when he’s shown how many sick people are in just one clinic that are going to die because the supplies to treat them aren’t available. But because he’s driven to figure out a way to save his daughter, he doesn’t take more than a cursory glance. Tie that in, and we might have an interesting character, as well as an ending that makes more sense to the viewer. But because of the single motivating factor, a golden opportunity is missed by the filmmakers.
However, I am reminded of the idea that if a film manages to make you feel that kind of emotion, it must have at least done a partially good job. I suppose it’s true that over the course of the film, Paul’s determination allowed his character to grow on me. But upon reflection, like I said, it wasn’t the events in the film that angered me, but the way the filmmakers went about presenting them. In this case, I don’t think that it can be attributed to good filmmaking that caused the emotional stir.
Inhale is a wasted opportunity. It’s fairly involving for most of the time it plays, but the way that the ending is both set-up and executed left me stunned and angry. Not because of the character and decision that was made, like I initially thought, but because the filmmakers didn’t create a cause-and-effect chain to lead us to that conclusion. It simply goes from one point, which dominates most of the film to the end, which comes almost out of nowhere. It’s not a bad film, but it needed key scenes changed in order to make the ending work and not undermine the entire effort.