A sweeping and truly British love story, Breathe marks the directorial debut of Andy Serkis. He tackles the true story of Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield), a young man in the late 1950s who suddenly finds his life torn apart by polio while working in Kenya. Given months to live, he and his wife grapple with his paralysis and deeply depressed state, while also trying to manage life as new parents.
At a time where polio meant being bed-bound in hospital until you eventually succumbed to the illness, Robin and Diana decided that this would not be their fate. And here is where the real gem of the movie lies, in the pitch-perfect portrayal of Diana by Claire Foy. Foy completely runs with the role of the woman who has to hold everyone’s lives together, lifting the film from generic weepy-biopic to powerful love story. Garfield is superb, conveying a world of emotions while lying paralysed for the majority of the film – but this is truly Foy’s moment to shine.
Breathe is very much an old-fashioned British movie, as it should be. Rousing strings and beautiful landscapes encapsulate the romance at the centre of the heartbreaking story, with Serkis showing nothing but pure affection for the Cavendish family and their friends. Tom Hollander provides light entertainment playing Diana’s twin brothers, with hints of his role in About Time peppered throughout, and there are charming smaller parts for Stephen Mangan and Hugh Bonneville too.
While you will most certainly be reaching for the hankies throughout the film, it is a shame that there isn’t more time spent upfront defining the characters before the main story kicks in.
A stunning debut from Serkis, Breathe is an old-fashioned love story that will sweep you off your feet and keep you enraptured until the very end.
CAST: Claire Foy, Andrew Garfield, Tom Hollander, Stephen Mangan, Hugh Bonneville
DIRECTOR: Andy Serkis
WRITER: William Nicholson
SYNOPSIS: The inspiring true love story of Robin and Diana Cavendish, an adventurous couple who refuse to give up in the face of a devastating disease. Their heartwarming celebration of human possibility marks the directorial debut of Andy Serkis.