Andy Serkis’ directorial debut Breathe tells the story of real life couple Diana and Robin Cavendish who face a huge challenge and instead of submitting to it, they triumph and pave the way for others. Robin has contracted polio and is now paralyzed from the neck down and is on a respirator. In the 1960s, no one with that degree of disability could live at home, but that didn’t stop Robin and Diana.
Determined to get Robin home, they remove him and the machines from the hospital and set him up on his own at home with his wife and son. As Robin continues his life at home, he decides he wants to do more. He implores his friend Teddy Hall to help him create a wheelchair that could carry his respirator so he could live his life. Their creation not only changes the lives of the Cavendish family but many others around the world.
Andrew Garfield gives a truly stunning performance as Robin Cavendish. Most of his role is shown when paralyzed and therefore he is only able to use the expressions in his face and his voice to convey so much emotion. With such little to work with, Andrew Garfield manages to embody a man full of hope, spirit, and love for life and his family. Each movement of his face and the way he manages to convey such emotional depth is nothing short of magic. Each moment of humor and of sorrow are spot-on. He mesmerizes every time he is on screen, captivating an entire audience. Claire Foy gives a spectacular performance as Diana. Their chemistry together is perfect, and the love they feel for each other is so beautifully portrayed.
The writing in the film by William Nicholson creates this beautiful world and relationship between Diana and Robin. Each moment is more touching and emotional than the last. Robin gives an empowering speech at a conference that is captured very well in the film. The last twenty minutes of the film are heartbreaking and filled with love. The dialogue between Diana and Robin is quick witted, sharp, and spectacularly crafted. There are moments of humor and joy sprinkled throughout the film that brings to life the characters we have grown to love.
Andy Serkis hits it out of the park with Breathe. Everything in the film works from start to finish. The visuals encapsulate the beauty of a sunset, the vastness of the placed they visited in Africa, and the smallest intimacies between Robin and Diana. Some people may label this film as “Oscar bait,” but I would disagree. The film works to demonstrate the beauty of the relationship between Robin and Diana but also to show them as the inspirations and change makers that they were. Breathe is a truly magnificent film that is a tribute to the enduring nature of love and the capacity we have for kindness and bettering the lives of others.