Since ‘Breathe’ premiered at Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, of course the movie will be reviewed by the media and in this post we will post every review that comes out, then you can check out below:
The Hollywood Reporter
A true story of enduring love and survival against impossible odds, Breathe is chiefly noteworthy as the feature-directing debut of British screen star Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes), a kind of dry run for his Jungle Book reboot next year. But the main authorial force behind this personal passion project is producer Jonathan Cavendish, who co-founded the London-based motion-capture studio Imaginarium Productions with Serkis in 2011.
Cavendish conceived Breathe as a tribute to his parents, Robin and Diana, and the “swashbuckling band of eccentrics” that surrounded them during their long and extraordinary marriage. Despite being paralyzed from the neck down at 28, Robin defied medical science by living a full, productive, positive life as a devoted family man and trailblazing disability rights campaigner.
Breathe is clearly aiming for the same heart-wrenching emotional heights as James Marsh’s Oscar-winning Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything. But this is very much a crude copy, its noble intentions hobbled by a trite script, flat characters and a relentlessly saccharine tone that eventually starts to grate. Set in a jolly old England of warm beer, country houses and village greens, it feels more like Downton Abbey with a medical subplot than a serious biopic about an astoundingly able disabled man and his devoted wife.
Whatever its flaws, Breathe will likely do modest business on the strength of its starry cast, which includes Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man), Claire Foy (The Crown) and Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey). It also boasts lush visuals courtesy of triple Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson (JFK, The Aviator) and a screenplay by William Nicholson, a two-time Oscar nominee whose credits include Gladiator and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
Following its gala world premiere in Toronto, Breathe opens the London Film Festival on October 4th. It then screens in Zurich, San Diego and the Hamptons before landing in U.S. theaters October 13th. Bleecker Street and Participant Media share North American rights.
Debonair young couple Robin Cavendish (Garfield) and Diana Blacker (Foy) begin their courtship in the mid 1950s in that quintessentially English setting, a cricket match. Soon they are married and on extended honeymoon in Kenya, where Robin works as a broker for a tea plantation. But shortly after Diana falls pregnant, her dashing new husband is struck down with a severe case of polio. Mute, paralyzed and wholly dependent on a mechanical ventilator, his life expectancy is diagnosed in mere months.
But Diana has other ideas. Vowing to stand by Robin through thick and thin, she flies him back to London, pulls him out of his initial suicidal slump, and helps nurse him back towards limited powers of speech and movement. Against medical advice, she also fights against stuffy hospital bosses to spring Robin from his prison-like ward and relocate him to their genteel country home. There they enlist old friend Teddy Hall (Bonneville), an Oxford professor and amateur inventor, to help create the cutting-edge technology that will allow Robin to live a more normal life, starting with a battery-powered mobile respirator mounted on a home-made wheelchair.
Liberated from his sick bed, Robin boldly begins to venture beyond the family home, including a hair-raising road trip to Spain that almost ends in tragedy when his respirator battery explodes. He and Diana also become charity campaigners for the rights of severely disabled people, raising funds and pressing government ministers to provide wheelchairs for other polio victims. Their lobbying is a huge success, and Hall’s company manufacture the chairs. A happy ending and a cream tea for everybody. Hoorah!
Well, no, of course not. Robin and Diana were obviously remarkable souls, but Breathe paints them as borderline saints, flattening their humanity and carefully glossing over potentially tricky subjects, notably sexual matters. Foy’s performance, perky with a hint of steel, mostly rises above these limitations. But Garfield is inevitably hampered by a role that restricts him to little more than nodding and grinning. And boy does he grin. Tom Hollander also does double duty as Diana’s twin brothers, his dual role seemingly an excuse for some creaky comic banter and slick visual effects.
There is a fascinating true story about two exceptional people buried beneath all this sugary gloop. But in the hands of Serkis and Nicholson, it becomes a reductive parade of jolly japes and stiff upper lips, all drenched in the sonic syrup of Nitin Sawhney’s atypically mawkish score. Even when the grim reaper strikes in the final act, he arrives softened and sanitized and bathed in an incongruously warm glow. As we might expect when a film producer writes a big-screen love letter to his exceptional parents, Breathe is a touchingly sweet portrait. But Cavendish is too close to his subjects, and the end result feels like a soppy vanity project.
The directorial debut from actor Andy Serkis tells an uplifting real-life story of great misfortune bested by force of will, chipper resilience — and what we can only assume was a considerable personal fortune. Robin Cavendish, toothily played by Andrew Garfield, was a dashing, 28-year-old tea broker, newly married to wife Diana (Claire Foy) and soon to be a father when he contracted polio while working in Kenya in the late 1950s. Paralysed from the neck down, and dependent on a respirator for his survival, Robin defied the odds and went home to live with his family.
The film immediately feels as British as Pimms, drizzle and self-deprecating understatement
Although there are numerous parallels here with the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory Of Everything, Breathe has neither the weight of name recognition nor the knotty complexity of that picture. As such, it is unlikely to achieve similar recognition, either at the box office (it’s released in both the US and UK in October, from Bleecker Street and STX Entertainment respectively) or during awards season. Despite premiering at Toronto before moving to London, it’s also too conventional to really chime with festival audiences, and will likely most connect with fans of middlebrow prestige pictures.
The lack of emotional distance between the filmmakers and the subject – producer Jonathan Cavendish is the son of Robin and Diana – might account for the bracingly celebratory approach. This is understandable, perhaps, but it results in a lack of dramatic light and shade, and an absence of texture in the characterisation.
With its swooping shots of lush green and pleasant lands, cricket whites and crumbling piles, and its ethos of bucking up and jolly well getting on with stuff, the film immediately feels as British as Pimms, drizzle and self-deprecating understatement. Robin’s appraisal of his situation, when he regains consciousness to find himself bedbound and breathing through a hastily chiseled hole in his windpipe is that it’s “a bit of a bugger.”
Of the two central roles, Foy gets more of a satisfying arc, from doll-faced society beauty to unflappable, uncomplaining saint. Garfield, meanwhile, is restricted as much by the screenwriting as he is by his character’s lack of movement.
The supporting cast is peppered with boho toffs and affable eccentrics. Hugh Bonneville plays Teddy, Oxford don, inventor and wine lover who rarely enters the frame without a really rather special bottle of St Emilion clutched in his fist. Tom Hollander plays two characters, the bantering, buffoonish identical twin brothers of Diana whose roles seem to be a combination of sad clowns, a Greek chorus and inadvertent peril when one of them short circuits Robin’s portable lungs.
The film’s dogged tendency to look on the bright side is underlined by a score by Nitin Sawhney that tinkles like forced laughter at a cocktail party. The colour palette is equally heavy-handed: England is washed in greens; anywhere a bit foreign gets a sandy golden hue. And azure blue crops up regularly, a recurring reminder of the skies that were routinely denied to less fortunate patients suffering from Robin’s condition.
Andy Serkis’ directorial debut, “Breathe,” opens with a lavish aerial shot that soars over a hilly countryside so lush and picturesque that you practically expect the sequence to end with a zoom in to the quaint home of Bilbo Baggins in Hobbiton.
And comments like that, of course, are completely unfair to Serkis, who might be best-known for playing the tortured Gollum in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” movies, and whose move from performance-capture acting to directing doesn’t deserve to be saddled with silly comparisons to “LOTR.”
And yet Serkis, who is also earning accolades for his latest performance as Caesar in “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” clearly learned a thing or two directing the second unit on those films. For a first-time director, he’s surprisingly sure-handed with swooping vistas and swelling strings.
“Breathe,” which premiered on Monday at the Toronto International Film Festival, is a small personal story that also manages to be big and beautiful — in fact, it’s probably better at the big and beautiful than the small and personal.
Andrew Garfield stars in this real-life story as Robin Cavendish, a young Brit who in 1958 at the age of 28 was diagnosed with polio, which left him unable to move his body from the neck down. Claire Foy plays his wife Diana, who was instrumental in pushing him to leave the hospital, working tirelessly as Robin became the first patient with his condition in Britain to live outside a hospital, and then the first to use a wheelchair with built-in breathing apparatus.
Of course, we’ve been down this road before: Inspirational true-life stories of brave heroes overcoming obstacles are a cinematic staple, and this one could draw comparisons to the recent “The Theory of Everything,” for which Eddie Redmanye won an Oscar for playing Stephen Hawking.
Garfield does an admirable job of acting from the neck up; he’s always been very good at earnestness, which is what he’s called upon to deliver here. And Foy inserts playfulness and bite into her role as the saintly provider; this is Diana’s story, too, and she makes her side count as much as his.
For the most part, “Breathe” is a serious story told in a light way. Even when Robin has setbacks or disaster seems imminent — e.g., a trip to Spain that includes a blown respirator motor on a remote road — the potential catastrophe quickly turns into nothing more than a misadventure, a fun story to pass along.
The fact that Robin’s son Jonathan is a producer on the film likely has something to do with this – but so does Serkis, whose sweet spot as a director lies in conjuring up the bucolic, not the gritty. (To use another unfair “LOTR” comparison, this is a movie made by Smeagol rather than Gollum.)
But “Breathe” goes down easy, with intimate moments between Garfield and Foy that are among the film’s best, and an ending that may well have you reaching for a hankie even if you’d tried to resist earlier trailer-made lines like “I don’t want to just survive – I want to truly live.”
Like Bing Crosby’s version of Cole Porter’s “True Love,” which is heard prominently early in the film, “Breathe” might be a little too slick and shiny, but its pleasures are real.
The true story of Robin Cavendish, who became an advocate for the disabled after he was paralyzed by polio, becomes a very odd and frustrating drama in this consistently off-key film.
For his directorial debut, actor Serkis – best known for his compelling motion-capture performances in The Lord Of The Rings and the new Planet Of The Apes cycle – slathers Cavendish’s story in the comforting, nostalgic touches of Call The Midwife, with Andrew Garfield stiff-upper-lipping it through the role of Robin.
It’s a novel approach, I’ll give it that, and it suggests Serkis has studied Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, where characters coped with adversity by plastering on cheery smiles.
But Breathe doesn’t have that film’s masterful tonal control, struggling to integrate the naturalistic performance of Claire Foy as Robin’s supportive wife Diana with more eccentric creative choices like the casting of Tom Hollander as a pair of jolly twins. It just doesn’t gel, and it badly needs to.
“Breathe” sets out to offer a very specific kind of emotional experience and never wavers from that goal. The swooning period piece from director Andy Serkis tracks the decades of survival by Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield), a man stricken with polio in the ’50s who survived on a breathing machine for some 40 years, and the devotion of his wife Diana (Claire Foy) who stuck by his side that entire time. It’s a gorgeous, romantic drama that earns its emotional resonance without venturing beyond the most familiar beats.
The movie may not register as the most obvious choice of a debut for Serkis, best known as Hollywood’s preeminent motion-capture performer, whose credits range from Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” to Caesar in the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy, but its elegant, old-fashioned appeal shrouds the sophisticated performance at its center. Garfield, who spends the majority of the movie moving only his head and face, gives the most ambitious performance of his career and pretty much pulls it off. The obvious precedent, Eddie Redmayne’s deteriorating physical condition as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” certainly has a more chamelonesque power — but Garfield’s performance resonates in its own gentler way, giving credibility to his character’s resilience that elevates the movie above the constant threat of mawkish extremes.
Serkis and screenwriter William Nicholson waste little time establishing the relationship between Robin and Diana, who meet on the road while Robin still enjoys a career in the export business. They’re still traveling around, enjoying a carefree existence, when a sudden attack leaves him bedridden and diagnosed with only a few months of life left. It’s here that Diana takes charge, keen on bringing Robin home to care for him there despite doctors’ claims that moving him will precipitate his demise. The couple’s decision to take a gamble on moving him to a more comfortable location becomes the first of several exciting moments where they take control of the situation at great risk.
Unlike Hawking, Robin isn’t some otherworldly genius when the illness takes hold, and so the scope is simpler, with the movie focusing almost entirely on his devotion to survival. From the bleak paralysis of the first act, Robin’s world keeps opening up, and in due time he’s eagerly collaborating with inventor Teddy Hall (Hugh Bonneville) to construct a mobile version of his breathing machine that liberates him from the bedroom.
The couple eventually enjoy magical sunsets across Europe, become parents, and launch spectacular careers as activists helping to improve the lives of polio victims around the world. Produced by the Cavendishs’ now-grown son Jonathan, the movie has a hagiographic air throughout, as if incapable of showing any negative aspects of the couple’s story without finding its way back to another painterly image or upbeat moment. Serkis gains confidence in the material as he moves along, speeding through the decades (and aging his young actors to less-than-credible results in the process) and eventually giving Garfield the chance to deliver a few rousing speeches to bring the drama home.
Fortunately, the emotions are largely earned; “Breathe” nails its formula more often than not. Robin’s defiant ability to speak out about the virtual incarceration of polio patients in cold medical wards throughout Europe is a powerful stance that reflects the struggles he endures during the movie’s uneasy first half. In the later scenes depicting his old age, his exhaustion makes sense. Foy, whom many discovered through Netflix’s “The Crown,” gives a fragile, sincere performance as Robin’s endlessly supportive partner, but Garfield ultimately emerges as the real draw. With subtle facial tics, he’s able to convey a range of attitudes that serve as the movie’s soulful core.
Nicholson’s screenplay tracks Robin’s undulating devotion to his survival with a straightforward quality that lays its themes bare. “God’s a joke,” Robin asserts soon after his accident, losing faith in his situation. “No,” says a fellow polio patient in his ward, “god’s a joker.” Serkis’ movie inhabits that jovial mood throughout, squeezing its narrative with such a life-affirming embrace that it’s almost afraid to let the darkness in. “Breathe” may not be a realistic document of its subject, but as a celebration of his legacy, it does the trick.