Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Breathe Film Review

Catching up on the review for Breathe that I saw when it opened last week, and was directed by Andy Serkis. A beautiful film that stars Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy as the couple who willed him to live.

Robin Cavendish and Diana Blacker fall in love during 1953, at a cricket match with Robin the star batsman. And their life is going to be one of endless sunsets spent in Kenya, where Robin is a tea merchant. Their days are filled with tennis matches and afternoon tea, and with a baby on the way their life is complete. Until Robin contracts polio and they return to England.

Initially Robin is given weeks to live, paralysed and barely able to speak, life for him will be entirely dependant on a respirator. Tom Hollander is cast as Diana's twin brothers, (I never feel he is ever without a job and here he has two), and in desperation Robin pleads to die. But Diana, looking after their new born baby, with the capable Penny Downie as the family nanny Tid, will not hear of it. But unless Robin gets out of the hospital he feels he will. His doctor played by Jonathan Hyde is sceptical that he can live outside the hospital. Amit Shah's young doctor is more understanding, and with the help of him and some of the lovely nurses, Diana and Robin make his escape.

Diana meanwhile has renovated a ramshackle house to accommodate Robin, and with the help of the twins and friend Colin, played by Ed Speleers, he is moved to the new house. But it isn't until Hugh Bonneville, as friend Teddy Hall, creates a wheelchair with respirator included, that Robin really starts to live.

When Stephen Mangan's Dr Clement Aitken meets Robin, things go supersonic, with Teddy creating a relatively hi-tech new chair. Most of the nursing through the years was carried out by Diana though, with help from son Jonathan as he got older. The real Jonathan was a producer on the film about his remarkable parents.

But the film is ultimately about disability and society's attitude to it. And while Robin had the most amazing family and friends around him, others were not so lucky. In a riotous visit to Germany for a disability conference, Stephen Mangan takes Robin to visit a state of the art hospital for polio sufferers. It was very bizarre and had macabre shades of A Cure For Wellness. But he introduces Robin to the esteemed doctors at the conference as another way for the severely disabled to live. And back home Robin and Diana seek out finance for more chairs to give the other patients in the hospital a chance to live independent lives. In particular David Wilmot's Paddy who bet Robin £5 he wouldn't even get out of the hospital.

Andy Serkis added laughter to a story that could have been very dry, and Andrew Garfield acted his eyebrows off. With Claire Foy doing the hard lifting and getting things done in that very English way.

Robin Cavendish ultimately chose to live, and when to die in a life that was full of love, and watching it was a very humbling experience.

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