An inspiring biopic about the triumph of the spirit, love and willpower, Andy Serkis’s Breathe reminds us that it is not life’s hardships but how we respond to them that defines us – motivating resourcefulness, ingenuity, even crucial innovative breakthroughs.
With magnificent cinematography by Robert Richardson, a gorgeous opening shot of a sweeping English countryside foretells stunning scenes of British, African and Spanish landscapes, combined with poignant close-ups and immaculate composition.
Based on the true story of Robin and Diana Cavendish, parents to producer John Cavendish, the film takes place in the 1950s to 1990s amid a traditionally elegant English setting. A fast-forward through Robin (Andrew Garfield) and Diane’s (Claire Foy) charmed and happy courtship, marriage and pregnancy – and time in Africa – leads to the pivotal moment of Robin’s collapse, paralysis and diagnosis with Polio. Suddenly confined to an infirmary bed with a breathing tube in his neck and only able to move his eyes, Robin’s surly doctors announce that at best he will be able to eat and speak, but he can never leave the hospital and has only a few months to live.
Depressed by his hospital imprisonment, Robin’s wish is to die, but his tenacious, loving wife insists he must live, at least for the sake of their son. She and her twin siblings (Tom Hollander) devise a way to do the unthinkable. The brave and fearless Diana buys a fixer-upper, quickly learns nursing procedures, and – despite resistance from doctors – takes him home, where his spirits immediately improve. Thereafter are many happy times, near-disasters, and the devising of increasingly evolving ways to improve Robin’s life – such as his friend’s invention of a “breathing” wheelchair, which allows him to travel.
A trip to Germany for a conference reveals shockingly inhumane treatment of Polio sufferers, followed by the protagonist’s moving, impressive and effective speech about setting the severely disabled free so that they may live, not just survive.
The movie is infused with a very British attitude of carrying on cheerfully despite hardship and hiding inner emotions. However, the suppressed feelings of the characters could have been subtly more evident, creating greater depth amid the merriment. Otherwise, the movie is an impressive work about two remarkable human beings. Impeccable in its direction and acting, and visually magnificent, Breathe is a very romantic, uplifting depiction of a poignant, stunningly compelling story.
Breathe is released nationwide on 27th October 2017.
Watch the trailer for Breathe here: