'So dull it’ll send you off to sleep' – Netflix’s new thriller gets a kicking from critics

Melissa Barrera in Keep Breathing
(Image credit: Netflix)

The likes of Stranger Things, The Sea Beast and The Gray Man may have buoyed the fortunes of Netflix in recent weeks, but the streamer’s latest thriller series, Keep Breathing, has endured something of a critical kicking. 

The six-episode limited series follows Melissa Barrera’s Liv, a young lawyer who finds herself caught in a fight for survival when her private plane crash-lands deep in the Canadian wilderness.

Keep Breathing hit Netflix on July 28, and although the show hasn’t been given too much time to, well, breathe with general audiences, reviewers have been less-than-enthusiastic about its familiar premise (see Yellowjackets, The Wilds) and monotonous storytelling. 

For a bird's-eye view of the series’ critical performance thus far, Keep Breathing currently sports a lowly 38% rating on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes and a similarly disappointing 5.2 score on IMDb

“Where its predecessors were inventive in their approach, Keep Breathing plods along, tediously unrealistic and painfully predictable,” wrote the Independent, while The Guardian labeled the series “a survival drama so dull it’ll send you off to sleep.”

Melissa Barrera in Keep Breathing

(Image credit: Netflix)

CNN was equally unforgiving in its assessment: “The episodes are relatively and mercifully short, with most running 30-some-odd minutes; even so, the show can't entirely escape the common sensation of a movie concept stretched out to roughly twice that length.”

Many critics (including those from Decider and Variety) did, at least, praise Melissa Barrera’s performance as the show’s lead, though most still found Keep Breathing to be a lackluster take on a tried-and-tested formula.

IGN, for instance, gave the following verdict: “Keep Breathing is well-shot, well-acted, and well-intentioned. But as far as the story itself goes, there’s just no reason to watch this middling take on the survival genre when there are so many other series that have done it better.”

Analysis: critics be damned? 

Despite the series’ less-than-glowing reception, recent trends suggest Keep Breathing will still manage to break into the upper echelons of Netflix’s weekly top 10 rankings for a sustained period (it's already the biggest show on Netflix UK). 

2022 has seen countless critically-panned movies and TV shows rise to the top of the streamer’s popularity charts, and Keep Breathing’s easily-digestible structure – each episode runs between just 30 and 40 minutes – will inevitably work in its favor. 

What’s more, Netflix subscribers have proven that they don’t much care for the opinions of critics. Take 365 Days: This Day, for instance, which briefly became the most popular movie on the streamer despite a woeful 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Or Interceptor, which resisted its label as a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad movie” to also reach number one in its first week of release. 

On the TV front, Anatomy of a Scandal shot to the top of the platform’s most-watched chart irrespective of its largely negative critical reception, while the “very hard to watch” First Kill likewise defied its detractors.

The point being, viewership figures are, for better or worse, the most important measure of success for Netflix in its precarious current state, and company executives will be more than happy to weather Keep Breathing’s critical storm if the series delivers the goods on the numbers front.

Axel Metz
Phones Editor

Axel is TechRadar's UK-based Phones Editor, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest AI breakthroughs as part of the site's Mobile Computing vertical. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion.  Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.