Hold on tight - it’s time for yet another biopic!
The plot sounds excellent on paper. Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) is paralysed by polio at the age of 28, but in the mid-20th century those who were afflicted with the condition were never given diagnoses that involved living for much longer than a few months. But that is not in his cheeky and debonair nature, and he proves everyone wrong, living for years to come and going about changing the perceptions of the profoundly disabled across the world.
Don’t get me wrong, Robin Cavendish lived a remarkable life and is a source of inspiration and hope, but there is something about ‘Breathe’ that sort of falls short. I feel like a film like this should be made with a purpose other than to just tell the story of the person's life that was lived. I wanted my own prejudices or thoughts challenged, I wanted my own privilege to be examined. Sadly this wasn’t the case.
The film starts so abruptly you’re not really given much to understand the central characters of it. I understand the more interesting part of Robin’s life was after he had been afflicted by polio, but to understand the man and his drives after, I feel like we needed to have a bit more of his life before. Andrew Garfield does a remarkable job, at what no doubt must have been a very challenging role. I say this because the film's producer was none other than Robin Cavendish’s son, Jonathan Cavendish. Perhaps herein lies the problem. It is possibly one of the most touching tributes to a loved one seen in recent years, however beyond immortalising a (seemingly) already immortal man, it doesn’t do much more. I can only imagine it must have been with utmost trepidation that all involved approached anything, the gravity of who the producer was and their relation to the subject of the film would have been unavoidable.
Andrew Garfield does a remarkable job, at what no doubt must have been a very challenging role.
All this said, the film is still pleasant. There's some lovely cinematography, a couple of rousing speeches and some defining moments designed to have everyone in the audience a little weepy. Unless of course you’re my friend who I took along with me who was the only member of the audience to start laughing; in his defence, he said the film had been going for so long that by that stage it was a forgone conclusion what was about to happen. What a heartless monster, I said back wiping away some moisture that had somehow ended up in my eye.
There is a real sense of airiness to the film, obviously through its title but also though it’s story telling: everything light, everything wispy. The film is a little long, but a solid (if ephemeral) first effort from director Andy Serkis ('Lord of the Rings', 'Planet of the Apes' franchise). It has all the moments to make you laugh and cry, and will be a good opener for the Cunard British Film Festival. It's just a shame it was a little too long and didn’t pack a bit more of a punch, turning the breath into more of a yawn.