Andy Serkis‘ directorial debut is an ambitious one, but is able to soar emotionally thanks to its phenomenal leads.
Produced by Jonathan Cavendish (Bridget Jones Series), Breathe is based on the true story of his father Robin (Andrew Garfield), a British World War II veteran who sadly is crippled by Polio at the age of 28. Defiant about remaining in the confines of a hospital, he and wife Diana (Claire Foy) go against the wish of their doctors taking his respirator home knowing well that he could die should anything go wrong. Determined to live his life, he would go on to break barriers for the severely-disabled, pioneering mobility chairs enabling them to integrate into society at a time where they were institutionalized.
While it easily could have dwelled on the tragedy of being disabled, Breathe possesses a beautiful lightness and a gentle sprinkling of humour by Gladiator scribe William Nicholson. At once perhaps it is its insistence on taking a lighter tone at times that prevent it from being the heart-wrenching experience we maybe wanted it to be. An opportunity to connect emotionally at a sobering moment of realization where we are faced with larger than life Robin‘s mortality, seems to end prematurely. The comparisons to 2014’s Oscar-winning The Theory of Everything are inevitable and while viscerally it hits some of the same notes just as well, it is different enough to stand on its own as a story worth knowing.
Garfield is front and center and he is fantastic even speechless and inaudible for much of the Film early and startlingly believable when his Robin is gasping for air. Foy, known best for her star-making role in Netflix‘s expensive The Crown, embodies everything admirable and lovable about Diana, the true soul of this story which sees things empathetically from the caretaker’s perspective.
Serkis‘ directorial debut is a credible effort that is affecting and equal parts amusing and inspirational. Tissues mandatory.
Elevation Pictures release BREATHE Friday, October 20, 2017 in Toronto and wide Friday, November 3, 2017.