BFI London Film Festival Reviews

Breathe – Review

Andy Serkis has been an undeniable talent in the British film industry, and has swept up Hollywood in his on-screen presence. Especially when it is digitally altered with computerised faux fur or alien like tendencies. He is the go-to motion capture man who has developed incredible characters such as War for the Planet of the Apes‘ Caesar, the mighty King Kong,  and most famously Gollum from Lord of the RIngs. He has also appeared in flesh, brightening our screens in movies like Wild Bill, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and, unashamedly, 13 Going on 30.

Going behind the scenes for his directorial feature debut Breathe, Serkis proves that he has just as fantastic when conducting an incredible real-life drama.

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Starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy, Breathe revolves around Robin Cavendish, a young man who is stricken by the deadly polio disease and is only given three months to live. Becoming disabled, paralysed from the neck down at 28, Cavendish and his supporting wife Diana travel across the globe in order to help others like  him affected by polio as he defies his prognosis and the doctors.

Based on film producer Jonathon Cavendish’s life and own father, Breathe is a marvellous and inspiring tale of a man defying odds. Though it meets pretty much every cliche of a “period affliction drama,” or even recent BFI London Film Festival openers, Breathe is impossibly charming and directed with astuteness. Serkis has crafted a caring piece of cinema that is a palatable movie about illness and it’s impacts. Travelling over the globe, Serkis drenches the movie in glorious scenery. Whether it is the emerald shimmers of English Countryside or the amber sunsets across the Narobi desert, this quaint and lush work may be soundly structured but is vibrantly shot.

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Plum voiced and extremely upper-class, Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy make admirable leads, even with some shaky ageing make-up in their later years. As Robin, Andrew Garfield is maddeningly compelling. Maddeningly because he simply has to smile a lopsided goofy grin and he radiates the character. Layered under this positivity are years of struggle with polio and whilst there is a lot of tea, crumpets, and stiff upper-lips, there is also a lot of anguish. Resolute and rambunctious, Garfield puts in an almighty performance. Opposite him is The Crown‘s Claire Foy who is terrific in her role as Diana. Much like Tatiana Maslany in Stronger, Diana is the rock that pushes her husband into survival, pulling him from deep depression, and adhering to his crazed notions that help him escape the confines of his bed. Though Robin is, indeed, an incredible man who a spirit, adventure, and will-power to strife not just for himself, but for others like him Foy is incredibly astute at allowing Diana resolve as well as emotion.

The message throughout the film is that disability does not mean a worthless life (although, this is arguably contradictory by casting an able bodied man in the lead role.) We should do more to better not just accept, but to be more empathetic and strife for the betterment of those with disabilities. Breathe is about determination and love, and happiness in the face of adversity.

It may be twee but it certainly breathes with excellence.


Breathe is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

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