Optimism in Breathe at British Film Festival

Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield in Breathe.
Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield in Breathe.

IN the mood for an uplifting film about polio?

Going against the grain, Breathe is not the weepie-of-the-week kind of film you may come to expect about someone who can’t move from the neck down, can’t breathe without a machine and lives every day on the verge of death.

Adventurous and energetic Robin Cavendish is struck with polio in the late 1950s while in Kenya at the age of 28.

He is paralysed and given just months to live in a dank hospital alongside other sufferers, but his wife, the ever devoted Diana (Claire Foy), takes him home to be with her and their young son.

Unwilling to let his condition keep him indoors until he dies, Robin enlists his friends’ help to build a wheelchair that can accommodate his hefty breathing apparatus and make him mobile.

Andy Serkis, best known as the guy who performed Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films before being digitally replaced, steps behind the camera for the first time and tells this story through a rose- coloured lens.

There is more humour than tears with a traditional love story woven throughout, and Serkis maintains a very British feel, particularly with the dry wit.

Breathe almost plays out like a true story rom-com.

One of the highlight sequences is the family stranded on the side of a deserted Spain road when Robin’s breathing machine blows up.

This sequence would normally be filled with dread, but here it is played for laughs.

It is refreshing to watch the story unfold with optimism, when other films like it would be trying their hardest to make you reach for the tissues at every turn.

Though keep a couple handy for the end.

Breathe plays as part of the British Film Festival, October 26 – November 15.


Breathe (M)

Directed by: Andy Serkis

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright