As we near the end of the year, Awards Season is quickly approaching us and putting forward his contender for consideration is Andy Serkis, with his directorial debut Breathe. The film opened the London Film Festival, and here's my review of it.

Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) enjoys a life of luxury and class, with his beautiful wife Diana (Claire Foy), whom he met whilst playing cricket - it was love at first sight, of course. However, their life of comfort is sent into flux when Robin is struck with polio, and paralysed from the neck down. Confined to a bed and only given a few months to live, the Cavendishes refuse to accept this fate and, through their love and their courage, the pair flee the hospital ward to go and enjoy their lives - demanding more of an existence than that set to them by the confines of polio - and that's exactly what they do: they fight, and they live! It's a touching story, but one that never quite fulfills its emotional potential - settling for a more lighthearted approach to the material than we'd perhaps expect.
It can perhaps feel like a hindrance to the story on hand but you need to give the film some - pun intended - breathing room because its warmth is contagious and will quickly grow on its audiences. Breathe is a heartfelt look at the lives of the Cavendishes and how they triumphed over this step-back in their lives - made all the more endearing given that it's based on a true story too. However, despite this, the film never feels like it's really going for it. It's perhaps a little too cheery and colourful for its own good, which certainly feels like its inaccurate in its representation of such a serious issue and its portrayal of disability as something almost inconsequential. There really isn't a huge amount of depth to either Robin or Diana either, with both Garfield and Foy given little to chew and to really prove themselves; their performances are good enough, of course, but they fall a little flat given the character arcs feel so thin.

There is credit to be given to Andy Serkis, for sure, for his direction here is slick and admirable - the film flows quite seamlessly and is very satisfyingly, and purposefully, paced. The cinematography is also quite stunning and Robert Richardson's work as the DOP here is as impressive as ever. Breathe is by no means a bad film; it's enjoyable enough - there is certainly plenty of heart and charm in it that will have you smiling throughout. But that's just it, though. It's competent. But nothing more. It's a shame too because the potential is there but the film seems to pulls its emotional punches and it plays it's cards quite safe, sticking closely to familiar genre conventions and tropes - think The Theory of Everything 2 but with the emotional gravitas of that watered down and you're on the right lines - to really stand out. It also does mean that when the film does try to go for those gut-punches of emotion, they fall rather flat and don't feel earned. The effervescence can be felt and, whilst it makes for competent viewing, this isn't a film you'll remember for too long after.


Breathe is an enjoyable and competent film but it plays it far too safe to be anything more.


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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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