Andy Serkis reigns in his abundant and career-defining devotion to character work to have a bash on the opposite side of the camera. Working alongside some of Britain’s finest examples of high class talent to low brow Netflix fare, his directorial debut Breathe expands his resume as well as setting the course for others, but is this truly anything more than Oscar bait?
The inspiring love story of Robin (Andrew Garfield) and Diana Cavendish (Claire Foy) is brought to light as we follow the couple following devastating news. As Robin is diagnosed with Polio at the age of 28, the pair, alongside lifelong friends and inventor Teddy Hall (Hugh Bonneville), must overcome a harsh disease and take life from a hospital ward into the real world where the couple attempt a full and passionate life.
Whilst on paper this may sound overwhelmingly similar to The Theory of Everything, everybody’s story deserves an inspiring rendition. Sure, both couples faced an extraordinary and life-altering disease and both attempted to overcome such obstacles, but both attempts are equally as life affirming. You there sitting on your backside, go and explore. Hidden messages intertwine real life storytelling as we sit and watch a glorified love story evoking the very best of how we should be treating our lives. Whether it’s enough to make you go out and reach your dreams and goals, however, is another question altogether.
As adventure goes, the Cavendish couple thwart any disease who dares come between them. From cross country touring to the daunting beacon of parenthood, the pair ultimately believed and fulfilled their intentions of making a life worth living. And whilst the story itself is magnetic and wholeheartedly genuine, it’s a shame that half of the content can sometimes come across as humdrum and often basic.
Garfield is no newcomer to biopic fare, just last year propelling in similar territory such as Hacksaw Ridge and other grandeur performances in Scorsese’s Silence. But here, something about being bound and constrained equally has an effect both swaying in favour and against as the actor attempts with very little. This performance compared to all others in Breathe feels the most restrained and begins to oddly grate rather than a gracious transition from true life to screen. The lagging two hour duration would ultimately suffer without the addition of our favourite Queen.
A partner in crime and a large chunk of how the Cavendish duo certainly succeeded. Foy’s nuanced performance doesn’t defy any expectations from her Netflix performance in The Crown but here proves again that biopics are maybe a forte. The say Foy steals the screen is a slight understatement, but amongst other talents such as Downton’s Hugh Bonneville and Ed Speleers or Tom Hollander playing a double act, she’s a sure fire and glorified hit in a film which otherwise gently meanders.
Serkis’ directorial effort isn’t without hope. There is a story here worth telling and a screen presence for a life as fulfilling as this. Sadly, this attempt meanders with the occasional and sparse moment of much needed levity but soars in others down to a dedicated central female lead.
Dir: Andy Serkis
Scr: William Nicholson
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Hugh Bonneville, Ed Speleers, Tom Hollander
Prd: Jonathan Cavendish
DOP: Robert Richardson
Music: Nitin Sawhney
Runtime: 118 minutes
Breathe is available on Digital now and will be out on Blu-Ray and DVD 5th March 2018.