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The inspiring true love story of Robin and Diana Cavendish, an adventurous couple who refuse to give up in the face of a devastating disease. Their heartwarming celebration of human possibility marks the directorial debut of Andy Serkis.

Andy Serkis has built up a reputation as the industry go to guy for roles utilising innovative technology, specifically motion capture, so it’s slightly surprising that his debut feature as director is as understated and personal as ‘Breathe’. His motion capture take on ‘The Jungle Book’ was originally slated to be his debut, but that was pushed back after Disney’s take made it into cinemas first, so Serkis moved on to ‘Breathe’, a story about the life of his business partner Jonathan Cavendish’s father. That man is Robin Cavendish, a man who was struck down with polio in his late 20s and as per the medical facilities of the time, was destined to spend what remained of his life confined to a hospital. ‘Breathe’ is about how Robin refused to let his disability define him and how the efforts of him and his friends led to breakthroughs in medical technology that would transform the quality of life for many other polio sufferers. In some ways this film is an appropriate debut for Serkis, himself being a pioneer of cinematic technology.

Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy are well matched as Cavendish and his wife Diana, and I thought they both delivered good performances. I believed in their romance and thought it was beautifully played for the most part, with the performances and direction managing to avoid seeping into overly melodramatic territory. The film is well paced as it moves through the stages of Robin’s life, dividing time between his family life and his efforts to advance the thinking of the medical community, and there’s a good dose of humour scattered throughout that prevents the film becoming too morbid. Tom Hollander supports in a dual role as Diana’s twin brothers, and although I like Hollander and he is fine, this felt like an excuse to add some technical wizardry into proceedings and comes off as a gimmick (even if Diana did have twin brothers). The rest of the support fare better, with Hugh Bonneville standing out as the cheery inventor Teddy Hall.

Breathe’ is a heartwarming tale about overcoming adversity and fighting for a better life and it’s well performed and well told in this solidly enjoyable feature debut from Andy Serkis.

Rating: 3/5

Directed By: Andy Serkis

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Tom Hollander, Hugh Bonneville, Dean-Charles Chapman, Miranda Raison, Stephen Mangan, Jonathan Hyde, David Wilmot, Ed Speelers and Diana Rigg

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