Breathe (CIFF 2017)

Breathe is mid-tier Oscar-bait made in the same vain as The Theory of Everything. It even has that one scene that it knows, if it gets its lead actor nominated, will be the scene played when the nomination is announced. It checks off a lot of the “we want an Oscar” boxes, too: it’s a British period piece focused on a disabled white male. The male in this case is Andrew Garfield as Robin Cavendish, who in his late 20s contracts polio, becomes paralyzed from the neck down, and is given only a few months to live.

Of course, we wouldn’t have a movie that’s based on true events if the story stopped there. Robin’s wife, Diana (Claire Foy), doesn’t give up on him, and decides that she’s going to make his remaining time on this planet as great as possible. The story is more hers than is, as she does everything she can to care for her husband and raise their—at the time—infant son. There are some scares, tears, and laughs along the way in the directorial debut of Andy Serkis.

Where Breathe falters is in getting us inside the head of Diana. If this is her story, and more often than not it is, then we need to know how she feels about this tremendous burden. The movie washes away all motives as “she does it for love,” and maybe that’s true, but there have to be moments of doubt, no? That internal conflict would have made her a more interesting character and made the struggle feel less like it was out of a fairy tale. No matter. It’s emotional enough, I suppose, and the acting is great. It’ll likely be unsuccessful in its Oscar quest and be buried among other mid-tier bait films, but it’s more than a passable enough watch.

Conclusion: Breathe is a decent movie that doesn’t reach its lofty (Oscar) ambitions.

Recommendation: If you like the actors or the story interests you, Breathe makes for a decent watch.

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