BREATHE – review

The first movie I reviewed was about a paralyzed young man, so this is not my first go around with sad films. Breathe is based on the true story of Robin Cavendish, one of the longest surviving people affected by Polio. The film is centered on Robin’s unique look on life and his wife Diana’s love for her husband. Their son, Jonathan Cavendish, produced the film.
Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) is living the perfect life. He is living in Kenya with his catch of a wife Dianna (Claire Foy) where he is starting a tea brokering service. While his very pregnant wife returns to the city for a doctor’s appointment, Robin becomes very ill during the night. At the age of 28, Cavendish is diagnosed with polio and given only a few months to live. This film tells the story of how Cavendish proved everyone wrong.
While I have never considered myself a history buff, I do appreciate historical films. This movie is set in the late 50s jumping through time to the mid-90s. The technologies of the times are just astounding in the movie. Things such as handicap accessible transportation, medically equipped wheelchairs, even hospital conditions are something taken for granted (as well as the rarity of the Polio Virus). The majority of this film took place during my parents’ lifetime. It is strange to think that this was not all that long ago that these things were not an every day given. As if the beautiful love story between Robin and Diana Cavendish was not enough to drive this story, the technological innovation adds an entirely new element to the story.
I love movies that have a very strong female lead, and Claire Foy sure does seem to have a track record of playing insanely strong women. What Diana Cavendish did for her husband in the Mid to Late 1950s was incredible. To take on the responsibility of both a paralyzed husband and infant at the same time is something that would test anyone. My only problem with this film is that Diana never had a moment to break. We never see her falter. You see Robin in dark places, but Diana never hits a breaking point. She has moments where you can see fear and worry cross her face, but no matter how strong she was, I would have liked to see a brief scene where Diana has a moment for herself where her worry extends beyond just her husband.
Breathe has been on my “to see” list for a while. I was afraid that maybe it would not live up to the hype, but it did not disappoint. Andrew Garfield and Clair Foy both give amazing performances, and the movie has so much more than a love story driving it that you are completely invested in the characters. Yes, it is sad, but I was expecting that going in (to be fair there are a number of happy moments, too). I give Breathe an A.

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