Subject: Review: Breathe (2017)
(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)
CAPSULE: This is a true story. Stricken with polio and
a prognosis of only three months to live, Robin Cavendish
must first overcome his death wish. He then attacks his
problem that he must live in hospital with an immovable
respirator. With the help of friends he engineers a way
to live at home and then to actually move around. His
engineering solutions improved the lives of thousands of
polio victims. Andy Serkis's directorial debut is a
moving paean to the human spirit and the possibilities
of engineering. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
BREATHE is the true story of Robin Cavendish (played by Andrew
Garfield). At the age of 28 he was living a particularly active
(perhaps posh) life and thoroughly enjoying himself and his
newlywed wife Diane (Claire Foy). Diane was pregnant with his
child. The good life came to a sudden crashing end when Robin
started falling down and being in pain. He became paralyzed from
the neck down, the victim of polio. His life was predicted to last
only another three months. In deep depression he let it be known
that he had a strong preference for death over being imprisoned in
a respirator in the hospital. He made clear his unhappiness to
Diane, his wife, who never stopped loving him.
The machinery did his breathing for Robin, but he could do little
more than stare at the ceiling. Strictly forbidden from taking
any action he decided he wanted to go home and acquired a
respirator he could use at home. This had never been done before.
And the three-month estimate of his survival time was reduced to
two weeks. Instead, his condition improved with the slight change
of scenery. He could stare at another ceiling and he could commune
with his friends, one of whom was an amateur engineer. Together
they designed new equipment to improve the lot of Robin and in
general people in respirators. That friend is played by Hugh
Bonneville who played the head of the household in "Downton Abbey."
Robin's next idea for improving his condition was to have a
respirator built into a wheel chair. With this he could actually
travel. In the end, Robin's ingenuity would improve the life of
thousands of polio victims.
For Andy Serkis's directorial debut he has chosen to make a film
very different from the special effects-laden films he is best
known for. With the exception of the mushiness of the film's use
of Cole Porter's "True Love" the film creates a level of tenderness
in the love of the two Cavendishes for each other. This is a side
of Serkis we never expected.
Claire Foy is fine as Diane, but Garfield may have a little trouble
getting American audience sympathy playing a somewhat toffee-nosed
patrician. But that is not necessarily a fault. It is better the
characters not be so cute as perhaps they might be in GIFTED. And
if they still seem too loveable realize that the boy in the film
grew up to produce this film.
I rate BREATHE a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
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Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 2017 Mark R. Leeper