Celebrated actor Andy Serkis makes his directorial debut with an inspiring tale of love and courage in the face of adversity. Breathe tells the love story of Robin and Diana Cavendish (Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy), a couple whose bravery when confronted with debilitating disease ended up changing the lives of millions of people around the world.
Forgoing the courtship phase, Serkis’ film kicks into gear when Robin, an activist and inventor, was diagnosed with polio and left paralyzed from the neck down. Dependent on a respirator and with his wife pregnant at the time, life looked very bleak for the once adventurous man. Unwilling to give up on her husband, or let him give up on himself, Diana’s support would propel him to commence a fight against the societal notion that the disabled are best suited to remain tucked away in hospitals. In Robin’s pursuits to show that those with disabilities can live a normal life, he helped to spearhead inventions, including wheel chairs with built-in respirators and hydraulic lift for vans, that ended up bringing power and dignity to those with disabilities.
Structured like a classic love story, complete with sweeping landscapes and overly sweet orchestral score, it is clear Serkis did his research before stepping behind the camera. While the film does tend to play it a little too safe, Serkis shows much promise as a filmmaker. He clearly knows how to pull strong performances from his ensemble. While Garfield will receive much praise for his work, which is solid, Foy is the revelation here. She brings an emotional depth that makes the couple’s plight palpable. As moving and inspiring as Breathe is, the film lacks that certain edge needed to take it from pleasant to truly memorable.
Tuesday, September 12, 10 AM, Winter Garden Theatre
Thursday, September 14, 5:00 PM, Scotiabank 12
Tickets can be purchased at the TIFF website.