There is a sense of the familiar with Breathe, which tells the true story of polio victim Robin Cavendish. But it differs from its ilk with its cheerful attitude towards life—no small feat for a film that deals with disease, paralysis, and death.
Andrew Garfield plays Englishman Robin Cavendish, an amiable chap of the "stiff upper lip" variety, with whom life's promise has been cruelly snuffed out through contracting polio while working in Africa in the late 50s.
Paralysed from the neck down, Robin is put on a respirator and given months to live. But with the encouragement and support of his long-suffering wife, Diana (Claire Foy), and the ingenuity of his friend Teddy (Hugh Bonneville), Robin's life becomes one of reinvention and a symbol of endeavour and triumph as he historically pioneers a mobile treatment allowing paralysis patients to live their lives outside the hospital walls.
In his directorial debut, Andy Serkis shows enough chops to suggest he's one to keep an eye on. His attention to the film's technical minutia elevates it beyond a mere actorly drama. He also gets the most out of his quality cast, specifically Garfield who climbs wholeheartedly into the role of Robin and delivers a convincing performance despite only having his face to act with.
Not entirely without fault, the film's playful moments risk being overly twee. And yes, the provocative "Oscar bait" timing of its release might alert the cynically aware.
But for those less pessimistically challenged, Breathe's unbridled optimism and celebration of life is presented with full conviction and dares you to enter the cinema without a box of tissues.
Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy
M (Adult themes)
A celebration of life against a backdrop of death
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