Breathe (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)
Updated: Mar 17, 2020
Starring Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Hugh Bonneville, Miranda Raison, Dean-Charles Chapman, Tom Hollander, Diana Rigg, Ed Speleers, Emily Bevan, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Stephen Mangan, Amit Shah, Camilla Rutherford, Angela Holmes, Roger Ashton-Griffiths and Andre Jacobs.
Screenplay by William Nicholson.
Directed by Andy Serkis.
Distributed by Bleecker Street Media. 117 minutes. Rated PG-13.
In a world of troubling headlines that make dystopian future movies seem like premonition, Breathe, is a (please excuse the pun) breath of fresh air. This British rom-com (the first film directed by actor Andy Serkis of Lord of the Rings/Planet of the Apes fame) follows the love story of Robin Cavendish (played by Andrew Garfield) and Diana Blacker (played by Claire Foy), through their courtship, their wedding, their move to stunning Kenya where Robin buys and sells tea.
They are an adventurous couple sucking the very marrow out of life and doing it beautifully. Their life is idyllic when illness strikes and 28-year-old Robin narrowly skirts death, contracting polio while in Africa, leaving him paralyzed and respirator dependent.
I went into this movie knowing very little about its subject beyond the “young man contracts polio.” I expected a heavy, serious story about love persevering through hardship. However, this is the story of a couple that clearly did not know the meaning of the word no. They loved life, their friends, their family and most of all, each other.
Of particular note, this movie was produced by the couple’s real-life son, and it feels like it – homey and whimsical and ever cheerful (well, mostly cheerful). I found myself questioning my laughter, wondering if this was really appropriate to be laughing at someone or something that felt so serious, but this is a British romantic comedy and you laugh through the pain and hardship… stiff upper lip and all.
Andrew Garfield was remarkable and steadfast in the challenging role of Robin Cavendish. He’s likeable, handsome, and debonair – traits of the more well-to-do Brits at that time. This all comes through, even when he is incapacitated, bedridden and then chair-bound.
Robin was a man who took on the system for the disabled and lived to become one of the longest chronic respirator dependent humans at the time. Through dear friends and family support, he vastly improved not only his quality of life, but the lives of so many others. Andrew Garfield aptly was able to show us this strength and passion while maintaining the guise of respirator dependence and paralysis. As a trained nurse, I only critically questioned his breath to word ratio a few times.
Robin stays true to the belief that he would not have kept living without his wife, Diana. Claire Foy captured the emotions and hearts of the audience while she grappled with her husband’s depression, refusal to see their son, and her realization that survival was not living, and that living was worth the risk of dying.
Tom Hollander plays Diana’s twin brothers – he is quirky and odd, presumably the right actor for the parts.
One thing we really enjoyed was the film’s ability to move us as an audience in unexpected ways. A simple speech was able to move us to tears while asking us to about the way disabled patients are treated. It makes you acknowledge and consider a population of people that you normally wouldn’t consider in your normal day-to-day routine. One critique was that the large number of characters often led to rushed introductions and made some of the characters and their impact on the story hard to follow.
Overall, Breathe is moony and sappy, at times whimsical and ridiculous, and most importantly, true. I’m sure a curmudgeon could find fault in it’s never-ending positivity, but you can’t fault a son for producing his parents in their very best light. It wasn’t my favorite movie, but I am glad that I saw it and would be happy to watch again as a respite from life as we know it right now.
Bonnie Paul and Leni Paul
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 13, 2017.
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