Breathe Review – Beautiful, Shocking, A Breathless Love Story

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Breathe, from Bleecker Street Films and Participant Media, brings to the screen the true story of Robin and Diana Cavendish, their remarkable commitment, love and desire to be together against all odds and to dare to change the world.

Directed by Andy Serkis, Breathe stars Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield, with Tom Hollander, Hugh Bonneville, Edward Speleers, Diana Rigg, Amit Shah, David WIlmont, Emily Bevan, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Stephen Mangan, Adam Neill, Sylvester Groth, Norman Anstey and playing Jonathan Cavendish through the years Jack and Frank Madigan, Harry Marcus and Dean-Charles Chapman.

The film opens with Robin Cavendish, played by Andrew Garfield, playing cricket when he sees a lovely Diana Blacker, played by Claire Foy, sitting alone and decides without knowing that she was the one. So with one good thwack, he lobes the cricket ball and with precision it falls just behind her breaking the tea cup.

It may not have been the perfect opener but it worked on her and the two became inseparable after. Her family, twins, Bloggs and David Blacker, played by Tom Hollander, played Devil’s advocate, and she simply I know he’s the one and off they went to Kenya where Robin purchased tea.

After a Safari and playing tennis, he seems slightly off, a little more tired than normal and with each having an important appointment in the morning they decide it is easier if she goes closer to hers, as she is three months pregnant, and he’ll stay at the British ambassador’s home.


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In the night, he wakes, stumbles to his friends door, where he falls to the ground. It would be the last time he ever walked in his life. After saving his life, the doctors realized he had somehow contracted Polio through a spore that entered his lungs. He was completely paralyzed.

Transferred to a hospital ward with many others, the choice to live became the only real choice he made every day. On a respirator, he was confined. He went through the emotions that one would expect; he refused to see his wife, he wanted to die; until one day she finally asked, what he wanted, he said simply to leave.

Making a mad dash, Diana, Dr. Khan played by Amit Shah, and Nurse Margaret, played by Emily Bevan, managed to get Robin in an ambulance, before they were stopped by Dr. Entwistle played by Jonathan Hyde, who insisted no person in her husband’s condition had survived outside the hospital. “You’ll be back in two weeks” he said. It was the last time Robin was ever a patient in the hospital again.

Over the next years, being home helped although it wasn’t without the occasional mishap and granted with no medical staff, the life they envisioned overlooking the hills in Kenya didn’t quite become realized. And the new normal, thanks to Diana, became their life.

Professor Teddy Hall, played by Hugh Bonneville, was a frequent guest and finally after a few bottles they got down to the brass tacks of it all, asking Robin exactly what he could move, soon our inventor was making a bell system and then finally, a wheelchair, in fact the very first wheelchair that housed a respirator. Finally taking the show on the road, they went back in triumph to the ward that had pronounced so many dead before their time and showed them what they too could have . . certainly not the life planned but now a mobile one.

The wheelchair was hailed a miracle by some and misguided hope for others. It didn’t matter as the chair caught the attention of Dr. Clement Aitken, played by Stephen Mangan, and the team were off on another adventure to Germany where the long term disabled conference adopted the wheelchair as a possibility for their own patient.

Breathe is a formidable film as it traces the love story of Diana and Robin Cavendish.

Andrew Garfield is actually quite good in what some could say is his first serious role, outside of twinkling and alluring special effects. He holds his own with Ms. Foy, as he maintains his British accent very well. His depth and range was genuinely surprising.


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Claire Foy, of course one would have to be totally free of streaming not to know Ms. Foy plays Queen Elizabeth on the Nextflix series “The Crown.” Some of the scenes especially toward the end of the film are quite challenging and one can imagine difficult to film, and she is able to give every frame of this film a breath of freshness and honesty.

The cast of many who assisted in making this film all brought a richness to their characters and the devotion of making this film brilliant. More than just a film, Breathe is true story of an actual person, who lived, and flourished after fate decided to test the resilience of the human spirit. Cavendish produced, achieved and realized change in the world, from his immobile state, with the support of friends, family and his wife who chose to endure for love.

Breathe is the directorial debut for Andy Serkis, who is also known for his work in the Planet of The Apes Series, is also a partner in Imaginarium, with Jonathan Cavendish, the son of Robin and Diana. So while a true love story was not want Serkis had thought would be his first effort, the script was ready and the timing seemed right.

Breathe is a beautiful, brilliant and at time shocking film. The performances are rich and full of surprising depth.  

Breathe opens in select cities October 13, 2017. See it.

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