Actor Andy Serkis and his producing partner Jonathan Cavendish set up Imaginarium Productions to make their own films. They were looking for stories and realized that right under their noses was a remarkable and true story that was original and heartfelt. It was the story of Cavendish’s parents.
Cavendish’s father, Robin, was paralyzed from the neck down by polio at the age of 28. And his wife, Diana, took it upon herself to take care of him for the rest of his life. And from this we get the movie ‘Breathe.’ Directed by Serkis with a script written by William Nicholson, it was in 1956 when Robin (played by Andrew Garfield) met and married Diana (Claire Foy). But two years later Robin was struck down by polio, right in the prime of his life. A successful tea-broking businessman, his diagnosis, which included an inability to breathe on his own, was only three months. It was a diagnosis that would, of course, dramatically change his and his wife’s life.
Bed bound in the hospital, hooked up to a breathing machine, Diana had the choice to leave him there for the rest of his expected short life, or to take him home and care for him there. She took him home. So ‘Breathe’ is the story of the love and care that Diana had for Robin, through their many years of life, happily as a couple, which produced a son (Jonathan, in 1959). ‘Breathe’ also highlights Robin’s tenacity and ambitiousness to invent, along with Teddy Hall (Hugh Bonneville), a wheelchair with a built-in respirator that would be used for other people in his condition as well.
It may seem like a bit of deja vu watching this film as it’s a bit similar in storyline to ‘The Theory of Everything’ – the film that won Eddie Redmayne an Academy Award for portraying Stephen Hawking, who was also (and still is) confined to a wheelchair for most of his adult life. But ‘Beathe’ doesn’t really have a lot more to offer than ‘Theory,’ and while it’s a beautiful and romantic story abut a man who overcame severe health hurdles to live up until the age of 64 (he died in 1994), it’s a bit on the bland and unexciting side. Garfield is very good as Robin, though he doesn’t really have a whole lot to do except to lie down or sit on a wheelchair (Redmayne did it so much better), and Foy, as Diana, is too much of a knight is shining armour whose character comes across as too chirpy and happy and smiling in a role that would make Florence Nightingale blush – it’s a bit hard to believe that she didn’t suffer somewhat from her giving up her life to take care of Robin (and it’s also very noticeable that Foy’s Diana doesn’t age much in the film, could be it be because the real Diana is very much alive and Jonathan didn’t want to portray her as getting older?). The tagline for this film is ‘With her Love he Lived,’ and while this is very true, it’s a film that holds it’s breathe a bit too long and hard.
Photo from Imaginarium
Review by Tim Baros