We Don’t Want to Just Survive, We Want to Truly Live – Breathe (Film Review)

Last weekend Breathe premiered in UK cinemas, a biographical drama about the remarkable true story of Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield), a young tea broker in Kenya who in the early ’60s tragically contracted polio at the age of 28, leaving him paralysed from the neck down and unable to even breathe for himself. At the time, very little was understood about the severely disabled. He and others like him were expected to live the rest of their days confined to a hospital ward, grateful to be alive despite having lost all purpose and quality of life.

Unsurprisingly Robin does not want to go on living, but his extraordinary wife refuses to give up on him, insisting he goes on living to see their son grow up. From this moment on Robin refuses to accept his limitations and pushes every boundary. He becomes a pioneering advocate for the disabled and today he is one of the longest-lived responauts in Britain.

Breathe is incredibly uplifting despite what may seem like a morbid narrative – how can a story about a man becoming paralysed from the neck down be positive you may think? Breathe has a positive message because it is about not giving up. It’s about finding a reason to live and be happy despite truly devastating circumstances. It’ll inspire you to have a more positive outlook on life when going through difficult times of your own.

There are some very strong performances, particularly from the two leads. The key to Robin’s determination and will to carry on was ultimately the relationship he had with his wife, therefore Robin and Diana’s (Claire Foy) on screen portrayal is a major factor in this film. Andrew and Claire have very natural and believable on-screen chemistry, effortlessly portraying an unbreakable bond between husband and wife – two people who are completely devoted to one another.

Claire’s portrayal of Robin’s wife especially stands out and for all
the right reasons. She plays an incredibly strong female character who pushes the boundaries just as much as Robin, which is great to see in a film set in a time when women were still not seen as strong or independent. Tom Hollander plays both of Diana’s identical twin brothers, who bring just the right amount of light humour to the film.

Parts of Breathe were shot in South Africa, which boast some breathtaking cinematography. In fact, most of the film is visually stunning. Breathe is also Andy Serkis’s directorial debut, which means this film is kind of a big deal for him. Serkis doesn’t have anything to worry about however, as it is evident from watching Breathe that he has real talent as a director.

As a whole it is very difficult to find anything worth criticising. Breathe is a truly inspiring story about a man who was faced with the worst life could throw at him, yet chose to not just survive but to live a truly fulfilled life. Not only that, he also changed the way severely disabled people were seen and treated forever. You’re likely to leave the cinema feeling like you can take on anything, just like Robin did. This is a film I’d definitely watch again and again.

Breathe is out in cinemas now.

Dir: Andy Serkis

Prd: Jonathan Cavendish 

Scr: William Nicholson

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Hugh Bonneville 

Year: 2017

Music by: Nitin Sawhney