Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) can’t believe his luck when the beautiful and graceful Diana (Claire Foy) falls in love with him, and he with her. They get married and soon, Diana is pregnant. However their wedded bliss comes to an abrupt halt when Robin contracts polio, paralysing him from the neck down. Given only months to live, Robin becomes despondent and depressed but Diana refuses to give up on him. The pair set about defying the odds pitted against them to make a better life for themselves, becoming a source of inspiration for others who are disabled in the process.
Andy Serkis (best-known for playing Gollum in the LOTR series and Caesar in the Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy) has put acting to the side to focus on directing. While most would be familiar with his adaptation of The Jungle Book by now, which will star the likes of Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Benedict Cumberbatch, and will reportedly involve a darker interpretation of Rudyard Kipling’s book than that offered by Disney’s recent take, Serkis's directorial debut has turned out to be this film, Breathe, and it a quietly confident and genuinely pleasant first feature.
Its niceties can verge on twee but such is the case with most romantic dramas. The majority of its charm is provided by the two leads – Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy, the latter of whom stunned us as Queen Elizabeth in Netflix series The Crown. The supporting actors in Hugh Bonneville, Stephen Mangan, David Wilmot, and GOT’s Dianna Rigg and Dean-Charles Chapman are also all very good, but it has to be said that Tom Hollander, who plays Diana’s twin brothers, is a cut above the rest.
Breathe essentially provides few surprises but it’s an enjoyable watch which gives audiences what they came for – a romantic drama, an inspiring true story, and a weepy that will tug on your heart strings and tear ducts. Prettily shot, it’s a tad long, but the sincerity and warmth that have been invested in the movie (which, it is worth noting, was produced by none other than Jonathon Cavendish, Robin’s real-life son) may crack even the most determined of cynics.