With her love, he lived

Breathe, the directorial debut of Andy Serkis, is a small personal story that also manages to be big and beautiful.

Poster for the inspirational true story BreatheAndrew Garfield stars as Robin Cavendish, a young Brit who in 1958 at the age of 28 was diagnosed with polio, which left him unable to move his body from the neck down. Claire Foy (tv’s ‘The Crown’) plays his wife Diana, who was instrumental in helping him to leave the hospital, working tirelessly as Robin became the first patient with his condition in Britain to live outside a hospital, and then the first to use a wheelchair with built-in breathing apparatus.

Garfield does an admirable job of acting from the neck up; he’s always been very good at earnestness, which is what he’s called upon to deliver here. And Foy inserts playfulness and bite into her role as the saintly provider; this is Diana’s story, too, and she makes her side count as much as his.

For the most part, Breathe is a serious story told in a light way. Even when Robin has setbacks or disaster seems imminent – e.g., a trip to Spain that includes a blown respirator motor on a remote road – the potential catastrophe quickly turns into nothing more than a misadventure, a fun story to pass along.

The fact that Robin’s son Jonathan is a producer on the film likely has something to do with this – but so does Serkis, whose sweet spot as a director lies in conjuring up the bucolic, not the gritty.

Breathe goes down easy, with intimate moments between Garfield and Foy that are among the film’s best, and an ending that may well have you reaching for a hankie.

– Steve Pond, The Wrap

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