4th October 2017 7.00pm at Odeon Leicester Square
4th October 2017 8.30pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
5th October 2017 11.30am at Odeon Leicester Square
Films dealing with disability can either be great or disastrous. Andy Serkis, in his directorial debut, handles it perfectly. Inspired by the true story of producer Jonathan Cavendish’s parents, Breathe follows Robin (Andrew Garfield) as he contracts polio and is left paralysed in a hospital bed. On the edge of suicide, Robin despises being locked away from the world. He persuades his wife Diana (Claire Foy) to break him out to live in a nice house. This leads Robin on a quest to ensure similar living conditions for other severely disabled people.
Serkis and screenwriter William Nicholson execute the film with a realism rarely seen in biopics, particularly those with disabled characters. It’s not Hollywood sunshine trash, and neither is it a nihilistic social drama. Nicholson walks along a line between the two. Robin experiences real trauma, but it’s within a charming British bubble of black humour and stiff upper-lips. Audiences may be surprised at the level of humour delighting this movie, given its subject matter. But it creates a far more realistic and recognisable environment for the story to flourish.
The director has an intelligent understanding of patience, and uses it to create realistic depth. The scenes have perfect pace, often with deafening silences between the characters. One almost feels obligated to lean in. And unlike many actor-turned-directors, Serkis understands visuals. With Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson, he composes brutally realistic and sometimes surrealistic images – creating an unusual naturalism, absent from modern biopics.
It’s another award-worthy performance from Andrew Garfield, who stamps out the stereotypical paraplegic (as Eddie Redmayne did before him) to deliver an intensely human and good-humoured character. Although Claire Foy can’t hope to match him, she has a heartwarming presence on screen – losing none of her Elizabethan sternness, but possessing a softer emotional edge.
Breathe isn’t full of twists and turns, and Nicholson throws in the odd cliché, but the film excels in its honesty. It’s clear that Serkis is not another deluded actor, arrogant enough to believe he can direct – he’s the real deal. Serkis is here to stay.
Breathe is released nationwide on 27th October 2017.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Breathe here: