The specifics of that tragedy and how the incident rippled across the freediving community are finally revealed in heartbreaking fashion, but primarily, “The Deepest Breath” tells the story of Italian freediver Alessia Zecchini, who got hooked on the sport at an early age. The movie follows her journey to stardom in her field, in which she encounters obstacles, proves her tenacity, devotes herself to her goals, and ultimately meets, trains with, and falls for Stephen on her quest to set new world records. “Only a few people understand my dream,” she says, and thanks to some unbelievable footage, we’re able to go underwater with her and vicariously experience why she’s so drawn to the dark recesses of the sea. The silence and isolation at those levels make the rest of the world fade away, and the fact that she’s relying on nothing but her own mind and body to propel herself there is a big part of the appeal. “By holding your breath, you get to understand a bit more about yourself,” Alessia explains, and she’s pushed to the physical and emotional brink in search of the depths she craves.
The Blue Hole, off the coast of Dahab, Egypt, is described as more perilous than Mount Everest. It’s a dive site in which a diver must perform a lengthy descent, swim perpendicularly underneath a submerged rock arch, emerge on the other side, and then make it back to the surface. The area is littered with makeshift tributes to the people who have died attempting it. This becomes a training ground for Alessia and Stephen, and as she trades world records with a rival, diving to an astonishing 104 meters, everything seems to be going OK for the nascent couple. Until, suddenly, it isn’t.