The relationship Foy and Garfield create is passionate and heartfelt
Breathe takes the form of a well detailed but outwardly naive period drama, hitting hard emotionally in its telling of Robin Cavendish’s story. As Andy Serkis’ directorial debut, he takes a brief but well meaning look at the incredible life of a man who battled against the odds to stop his disability from defining his life.
With his wife, Diana (Claire Foy), pregnant with their first child, Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) is taken out by a bout of Polio and paralysed from the neck down. With the fear of not seeing his future son grow up, he is ready to die. Yet, with incredible strength, the couple are able to return home together, and despite Robin being bed bound, he is determined to live out his dreams.
The opening sequence sets the pace for a flowing yet fleeting look at Robin’s life. Far too often seemingly important or poignant moments are skimmed across, leaving a want for more intimate detail. The relationship Foy and Garfield create is passionate and heartfelt, but more could have been done from a directorial point of view to push home just how key they were to each other.
Yet, as a debut, Serkis has created an astonishingly emotional film with not just an important message but one that can be cherished and loved. There’s a huge heart sitting in the chest of Breathe and it beats quickly yet methodically throughout.
This is naturally aided by a genuinely respectful yet honest performance from Andrew Garfield as he suggests how difficult life can be after such an extreme illness, showing just how strong Robin Cavendish’s character was. This pairs well with Claire Foy’s careful and nursing Diana, in a hugely open performance, enhancing the emotion of the whole picture.
The film is stiflingly overwhelming, with a huge portion of that down to Garfield and Foy. Together they captured the essence of why Robin and Diana lasted together for so long, yet credit also attributes to Serkis for allowing their performances to flow in the way they do, even if his input could have contributed more to the final piece. It is brief and fleeting, but Breathe is also a very good biopic about a very important relationship.