Drama is all about conflict and hard choices and Inhale poses one of the best dramatic questions: How far is a parent willing to go to save their child? Since most everyone appreciates the special and unique bond parents have with their progeny, it’s easy to assume that a parent would make the ultimate sacrifice and die to save a son or daughter. But is a parent willing to make someone else make the ultimate sacrifice? Set against the hellscape of Mexico, Inhale is a gripping and suspenseful film that will push audiences to their limits of moral decision making.
District Attorney Paul Stanton (Dermot Mulroney) and his wife Diane (Diane Kruger) have a daughter, Chloe (Mia Stallard) who has a degenerative lung condition. Without a transplant – and soon – Chloe will die. Unfortunately, there are several people ahead of her on the waiting list for organ donors. Desperate for a solution, Paul and Diane discover that a mysterious Dr. Navarro performs clandestine organ transplants in Mexico for a large sum of cash, which forces Paul to undertake the dangerous task of venturing south of the border. With very little to go on except a name, Paul sticks his nose in places it doesn’t belong and quickly learns that he’ll have to sacrifice mind, body and spirit if he wants Chloe to survive.
Inhale is very well put together from the cast to the direction. Paul Stanton, as a character, is perfectly constructed for this film. Audiences want to see protagonists change and having Paul be the symbol of law and order makes his breaking of the law that much more satisfying. The fact that Paul is prosecuting a man for shooting someone who molested his son serves as an allegory for Paul’s story and illustrates that nothing is off limits when it comes to the welfare of one’s child. It was also a wise choice to tell the story in the present intercut by flashbacks. Audiences will feel just as lost as Paul as he wanders the streets and back alleys of Mexico and the convention works well without getting frustrating.
Dermot Mulroney, while looking a little too rugged to be a district attorney, fits the part of Paul Stanton well. His aggressive masculinity complete with scarred upper lip makes his day to day survival in Mexico a little more believable than if he were a little squishier around the edges. Also, Mulroney’s relationship with Kruger feels very authentic. In one scene where the two share a rare intimate moment, just as their passion begins to heat up they break it off to run to Chloe’s aid stark naked as one hopes any parent would do. The characters Paul meets in Mexico are all appropriately shady, evil and sometimes normal and good-hearted. Mexico is painted as a world built upon a survival-of-the-fittest morality and while the behavior of many of the characters can be off-putting, the commitment of the actors to their roles makes the characters endearing in their own ways.
Audiences should be aware that Inhale is depressing. Long before viewers discover whether or not Chloe survives they will first be incited to anger, frustration and horror at seeing how some people live and the things they do to one another. Ruffians mug outsiders. Children rob adults. Police send people to their deaths by directing them to dangerous parts of town. The only times of even moderate joy are watching Chloe be a little girl – but knowing that she’s dying spoils that joy – or when Paul forms a tenuous friendship with someone in Mexico – but even then the joy is marred by cynicism. The lack of happier scenes isn’t necessarily a criticism as it adds to the grit of the film, but the unrelenting hellishness can also be hard to watch.
What audiences will appreciate most about Inhale is its authenticity. While films about parents going to extraordinary lengths to save their dying child have been around for some time, this film feels real. There are no miracle drugs, eleventh-hour donors or good-Samaritan doctors. The characters all have their own agendas and motives for doing things. The fact that most of the characters in Inhale aren’t motivated by good is a sobering reflection of real life.