‘No Limit’: French sports drama fails to connect

For a movie about free-diving in deep waters, it is surprisingly shallow.

No Limit, a sexy French sports drama streaming on Netflix, delightfully provides European feels. I like how European actors look authentic on camera, with their disheveled hair and imperfect skin, and the drama often understated.

The story is inspired by Audrey Mestre, a 28-year-old French record-setting free-diver who dies while attempting to break the 160-meter free-diving world record.

No Limit, though, is fictional. Maestre is an inspiration for the story, but the movie is not about her life. It is actually a romantic drama about Roxana (Camille Rowe), who signs up for a free-diving course presumably because she’s sick and tired of her mother nagging her to stick to her therapy sessions.

In the first session of the course, she meets her beady-eyed unkempt, bad-boy instructor, Pascal (Sofiane Zermani), and falls for him.

Camilla Rowe and Cesar Domboy in ‘No Limit.’ | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF NETFLIX

A kind of love triangle follows, as another instructor, the more pleasant-looking Tom (Cesar Domboy), also has the hots for Roxana.

The movie is often visually gorgeous — especially the underwater scenes, when the free-diver disappears into unimaginable depths of clear, blue water. It’s breathtaking and almost poetic.

Roxana and Pascal hit it off — as lovers and as free-diving teammates until Roxana starts competing professionally and becomes an instant hit in the world of their obscure sport.

Jealousy, professional insecurities, and frustration (and cheating) take a toll on Roxana and Pascal. This is predictable early into the movie, as Pascal is your stereotypical macho womanizer who views women as sex objects — and if they’re extraordinary, a threat to his male ego.

You wonder why Roxana is more drawn to him than Tom, whom she finds attractive as well. This is probably why she’s in therapy — because of her choice of men and her self-destructive nature.

Writer-director David M. Rosenthal’s tale often feels like A Star is Born, except this one he mixed with French erotica and has a subtle, European-style storytelling.

Sure, there’s drama and conflict — except you feel detached. You don’t really care about Roxana and Pascal’s increasingly troubled romance, or the sport. This is because of thinly written characters and the free-diving scenes that feel like desktop screensavers than an immersive cinematic experience.

No Limit feels limited in its creativity and dramatic heft. For a movie about free-diving in deep waters, it is surprisingly shallow.

2 out of 5 stars
Stream on Netflix

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