Cast: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Hugh Bonneville, Tom Hollander
Director: Andy Serkis
Classification: 7-9 PG
“Breathe” is the remarkable true story about Robin Cavendish.
He was a courageous human being who was destined to spend his life in an iron lung after contracting polio in Africa, but who accepted life’s challenges and kept his spirit soaring, thanks to a handy new invention.
The film also focuses on Robin’s spirited wife Diane whose life is irrevocably changed when her husband becomes ill and is about to give up hope. By loving him unconditionally, she gives him the strength to continue living and contributing, in a unique way, to the plight of those inflicted with polio.
Deftly directed by actor Andy Serkis, of “Lord of the Rings” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” fame,this directorial debut is an inspiring piece of work with highly commendable performances by Andrew Garfield as Robin and Claire Foy as Diane.
Serkis worked closely with producer, Johnathan, who is Robin’s son, and celebrated scriptwriter, William Nicholson, of “Gladiator,” “Les Misérables,” and “First Knight” fame, to bring to light the heroic medical battle Robin underwent.
Adventurous and charismatic, Cavendish has his whole life ahead of him when he is paralysed by polio at the age of 28 while in Africa. Against all advice, Diana brings him home from hospital where her devotion and witty determination transcends his disability. Together they refuse to be imprisoned by his suffering; dazzling others with their humour, courage and lust for life. They also use their own story to inspire other people who are going through similar circumstances. Clever technology, thanks to an inventor friend Teddy (Hugh Bonneville), makes it possible for Robin to ‘get out of bed’ and experience new adventures. He gets a wheelchair with a respirator that allows him to travel and becomes an advocate for disabled people across the world.
One depressing scene in a German hospital shows us an uncomfortable tableau of dozens of paralysed people surviving in iron lungs, which are piled up in rows upon rows in a white, sanitised ward.
Andy Serkis captures the 50s era with vivid imagery, bursting with vibrant colours and a musical score that is thick and dreamy. He also elicits first-rate performances from his cast, especially the two strong leads who give the story its gravitas.
Like a lot of love letters, the unabashed air of sentimentality in “Breathe” runs high in places, but as a whole this engaging exercise also feels undeniably heartfelt and warm.