CAPSULE: This is a true story. Stricken with polio and a prognosis of only three months to live, Robin Cavendish must first overcome his death wish. He then attacks his problem that he must live in hospital with an immovable respirator. With the help of friends he engineers a way to live at home and then to actually move around. His engineering solutions improved the lives of thousands of polio victims. Andy Serkis's directorial debut is a moving paean to the human spirit and the possibilities of engineering. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
BREATHE is the true story of Robin Cavendish (played by Andrew Garfield). At the age of 28 he was living a particularly active (perhaps posh) life and thoroughly enjoying himself and his newlywed wife Diane (Claire Foy). Diane was pregnant with his child. The good life came to a sudden crashing end when Robin started falling down and being in pain. He became paralyzed from the neck down, the victim of polio. His life was predicted to last only another three months. In deep depression he let it be known that he had a strong preference for death over being imprisoned in a respirator in the hospital. He made clear his unhappiness to Diane, his wife, who never stopped loving him.
The machinery did his breathing for Robin, but he could do little more than stare at the ceiling. Strictly forbidden from taking any action he decided he wanted to go home and acquired a respirator he could use at home. This had never been done before. And the three-month estimate of his survival time was reduced to two weeks. Instead, his condition improved with the slight change of scenery. He could stare at another ceiling and he could commune with his friends, one of whom was an amateur engineer. Together they designed new equipment to improve the lot of Robin and in general people in respirators. That friend is played by Hugh Bonneville who played the head of the household in "Downton Abbey."
Robin's next idea for improving his condition was to have a respirator built into a wheel chair. With this he could actually travel. In the end, Robin's ingenuity would improve the life of thousands of polio victims.
For Andy Serkis's directorial debut he has chosen to make a film very different from the special effects-laden films he is best known for. With the exception of the mushiness of the film's use of Cole Porter's "True Love" the film creates a level of tenderness in the love of the two Cavendishes for each other. This is a side of Serkis we never expected.
Claire Foy is fine as Diane, but Garfield may have a little trouble getting American audience sympathy playing a somewhat toffee-nosed patrician. But that is not necessarily a fault. It is better the characters not be so cute as perhaps they might be in GIFTED. And if they still seem too loveable realize that the boy in the film grew up to produce this film.
I rate BREATHE a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5716464/combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/breathe_2017
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2017 Mark R. Leeper