Film Review: Breathe

Movies can come carefully constructed to elicit emotion and when packaged appropriately can do so. However, when the audience can feel the pull or the mechanics behind the finished product, it becomes less of a thrilling experience. Breathe, the directorial debut of Andy Serkis, contains many a compelling element and is stitched together for maximum emotional impact. However, I left the theater mostly lukewarm on the final product.

Jonathan Cavendish produced this project based on the lives of his parents, Robin and Diana Cavendish. The two married young and seemed to be the perfect couple, till Robin came down with polio and was forced to live bound to a respirator. The couple struggle with his condition but soon work together to get him out of the hospital, something people with this severe of a case of the disease have never done. What follows is a long life of adventure, struggle, and a drive to live even when things don’t go your way.

Breathe is very well meaning, and according to Jonathan almost entirely factually true. What kept this reviewer from embracing the film full out is that the movie seems imbalanced. It speeds through the beginnings of the relationship. Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield prove their worth as actors the longer the film goes on, but they are not helped out in any way by the beginning of the film that seems less concerned with their actual chemistry than the appearance of actual chemistry. They’re saddled with wordless or meaningless scenes and then bam! Polio. It’s such an abrupt thing and the movie doesn’t give us anything to grasp on to with regards to their relationship.

It’s a tall order for this film, coming on the heels of The Theory of Everything, which boring though it was, did feature a dynamite relationship duo in Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne. I never quite felt like Breathe could move past being a collection of scenes stitched together, nice though some of them were (the final 30 minutes were so good).

Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield really do give the film their all, having to deal with multiple elements that might have tripped up a less talented thespian. I was most impressed with Claire’s arc having to be the one to hold up the picture as the one granted the most freedom. She managed to capture the stoicism of a woman who is grounded in love and the ferociousness of one as well. It’s too bad the rest of the film couldn’t manage that type of life.