Film review – Breathe

Directed: Andy Serkis

Writer: William Nicholson 

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Hugh Bonneville 

Tagline: “With Her Love, He Lived”

Trivia: Three wheelchairs were made by Teddy Hall, he named them the “Cavendish” wheelchair. Teddy Hall built the original chairs with his own money. He had a considerable amount of money because his grandfather discovered the largest lump of gold to be found at the time in Australia.

I have a friend who after giving birth to two healthy children her 3rd child was born with a genetic disorder called Canavan whereby the life expectancy of the child is less than 5 years.

The doctors told my friend to put the baby in a nursing home and forget him, as he would not survive beyond 3 years.

My friend refused accepting it, took the child home and found ways to fight that prognosis. Today that child is 11 years old, goes to school (special needs), and has a full social life that includes, swimming, scouts, music and much more.

Yes, he is bound to a special wheelchair and yes he depends on his family to get him around. But everywhere he goes he brings light and optimism and shows what living fully means.

Why am I telling you this story? Because Breathe is a similar story.

It’s a true story based on the life of Robin (Andrew Garfield) & Diana (Claire Foy) Cavendish and it shows their refusal to accept life as a disabled person and how to embrace LIFE.

After contracting Polio at the age of 28, Robin Cavendish, is paralyzed from the neck down and expected to live only a few months, he not only beat those odds by almost 40 years, but also regained his independence.

He was instrumental in helping other severely disabled patients regain theirs, collaborating with his friend Teddy (Hugh Bonneville), an amateur inventor, to design a wheelchair with a built-in ventilator and traveling to Europe to promote its use.

But the real story is a love story. It’s the love story of Robin and Diana, it’s a love story to their life and legacy, produced by their son Jonathan Cavendish, and most of all it’s a love story to celebrating life and making the most out of what it gives you.  

Most critics have put down this movie stating that it paints Cavendish life as if it was fairytale. I guess they would have preferred the movie to focus on the tragedy of Polio and how hard it is to live around someone with Polio.

Seeing someone with such heavy disability enjoying life makes most healthy people feel uncomfortable as it challenges them on the question of how much do they truly live and therefore they would rather put it down then confront themselves.

Having been around many disabled people, I can say without any hesitation that many of them are the most joyous people I’ve met. They do not take anything for granted and are grateful for every minute they can steal out of life.

That’s the spirit of this movie.

Written by Bill Nicholson, the script is almost magical as one can feel the heart and the uplifting emotion of the story within not only the dialogue but also the characters.

There is an honesty and sincerity that infuses both the script and performances, defying any sense of patronization or cynicism. Capturing the true spirit of the Colonial British “stiff upper lip”, each character is filled with this trait from beginning to end.

Nicholson fills the script with lightness and laughter in the Cavendishes approach to life that is then elegantly transferred visually by Serkis and cinematographer Robert Richardson.
Beautifully crafted dichotomy juxtaposition against a horrible disease. But it’s the performances that bring to life each of these special individuals whom we meet.

Andrew Garfield is doing a fantastic job showing that spirit, even though he is bound to a wheelchair most of the movie and is paralyzed.

Claire Foy is giving a terrific performance of the woman who was not willing to give up on her love and fought to make their life as enjoyable as possible and conduct a “normal” life within what they could.

There is much implicit commentary in Breathe about humanity; our approach to life, to each other, to the disabled, to medicine.

This film stays with you long after the end credits have run through, providing food for thought and for the heart.

Breathe makes you want to do more than just breathe. It makes you want to live. So don’t listen to the critics, find the movie, watch it, and start living YOUR life fully.

Verdict 4.5/5 Stars in my book

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