The new Based on Actual Inspirational Events movie Breathe
features a bigger threat of reverance than most in the genre (producer Jeremy Cavendish is the son of the central characters), but some terrific performances and a flair for the in-between moments help keep the sentiment tamped down to manageable levels. While this story is definitely one worth telling, what really lingers are the times when the tearful speeches fade out, and a looser, woolier film peeks through.
Beginning with a fateful trip to Kenya, the story follows Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield), a British tea broker whose idyllic earmarked future—equally adoring wife, son on the way—suffers a seemingly permanent hiatus when he is rendered immobile by polio in 1958. After his wife Diana (Claire Foy) devises a way to treat him at home, the pair and their loyal circle of friends try and figure out how to make the most of his remaining time. Inventing a rad mobile respirator chair is one of the first things on the list.
Making his directorial debut, Andy Serkis (yes, the Gollum guy) proves to have a healthy appreciation for his performers, bringing out the best in Garfield, who makes the most of his necessarily oversized facial expressions, and especially Foy, who captures both the fierce dedication and occasionally unlovely exasperation of caring for an ill person. (This is probably not a film for steadfast anti-vaxxers.) Their rapport is only strengthened by a slew of recognizable British character actors who unpredictably pop in and out of the story. (As a pair of identical twin Bertie Woosters, the great Tom Hollander gets to play off of his own dim reactions, which may justify the existence of CGI.) This very deep bench helps make Breathe a welcome award-bait anomaly: while the big inspirational moments are all well done, its best moments occur when the characters are just hanging out, enjoying and thriving in each other's company while they still can. Who has the time for sanctimony?
For more info about this Golllum-directed movie, see Movie Times.