Theatre & Reviews

Breathe

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.

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About the author

Peter Feldman

Peter has been a journalist and arts critic for almost 50 years and served on The Star in various capacities for 35 years, ending up as a specialist writer on films, music and theatre. During that time he travelled extensively on assignments and interviewed many international film and pop stars, both in South Africa and overseas. He also covered some of South Africa's biggest film and musical events. He was one of only two South African journalists to be invited by Steven Spielberg to the Hook film junket in LA in 1991 where he interviewed the famous director as well as Dustin Hoffman and the late Robin Williams. He attended the gala James Bond premiere in London in 1981 and did an iconic interview in a Rolls Royce with Roger Moore who played Bond. He spent a week touring England with Queen prior to their Sun City visit in 1983, interviewed a host of international stars on films sets in Hollywood and London and was the first local journalist to nail an interview with The Rolling Stones prior to their SA visit in 1995.
He is active in the freelance field and his work has appeared in a variety of South African newspapers and magazines. He has also worked on TV and radio (ChaiFM 101.9) in his specialist capacity. Over the years Feldman has been the recipient of several awards for his contribution to music journalism and the SA record industry. He is a recent recipient of the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz award in recognition for his long standing journalistic support for the arts. He wrote lyrics for some top artists, including Sipho Mabuse, and had a hit disco single, "Video Games," which was released in 1988. He coined the phrase "Local is Lekker" which he used in his columns in The Star Tonight and broadcast in the 70s on David Gresham's popular afternoon show on Springbok Radio.

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