Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy find the very beating heart of love in the poignant and moving narrative of Breathe.
Based on the true life of Robin Cavendish (Garfield), a man who is struck down by polio in the prime of his life and is given only months to live. But thanks to the devotion, care and ingenuity of his beloved wife Diana (Foy), Robin survives via the help of a mobile ventilator and goes on to live a marvellous life, while becoming a hope for the disabled.
I must warn you that Breathe is a film that requires tissues, and plenty of them because the tears certainly do flow. While true-life stories are normally films that evoke very strong feelings from their audiences, Breathe does this even more so in a cruel twist of fate that is suffered by Garfield’s fun-loving adventurer Robin. But while everyone gives up on him, including himself, it’s the will and belief of his wife Diana, played here in tremendous form by Claire Foy, that will not let him fall into a life of despair.
While at one point in his career Garfield was being pushed towards the Hollywood limelight, he has steadfastly held to his position as a capable actor, rather than that of another Hollywood pretty boy. As a performer, he has always held a great maturity and commanding performance, and this is readily seen here in Breathe. The circumstances visited upon Robin Cavendish require an actor who can completely disappear into a role, and this can certainly be seen in Garfield, who relies upon nothing more than his limited facial expressions to bring to life this phenomenal man’s life.
But while Garfield might be the centre of the film, in my opinion, it’s Foy who is really the scene stealer. Her emotions and physical movements are not bound like Garfield and she makes the most of all of her vast range of motion and the feelings that result from tragedy. But while she does disappear for a moment, Foy’s Diana is ultimately a take charge kind of a lass, and will not stand meekly by and leave her husband to be combined to a hospital bed for the rest of his life. Foy’s performance is one of endearing love and her eyes never wander from her beloved Robin. Via each other, the couple manages to live an extraordinary life together and become a symbol of hope for Britain’s disabled population.
But while Breathe is ultimately the story of love, hope and survival, it’s subject matter does carry some rather terrifying moments. These come in the medical accidents and crises that Robin is frequently plagued by in his life, and acclaimed actor turned director Andy Serkis does not shy away from the hardships that the Cavendish’s battled. As an audience member, I was in no-doubt that Serkis was in complete charge of his film, and was helped in part by the presence of Jonathan Cavendish, the son of Robin and Diana, who was onboard as a producer and who was instrumental in bringing this story to the big screen. Both Serkis and Cavendish have long been working partners, and their respective talents behind-the-camera make for a very moving story.
If you’re looking to experience the power of love and devotion then you’ll find it with Breathe….and remember to bring tissues, because you’re bound to shed a tear or two.
Image: Transmission Films