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Friday, January 26, 2018


This British drama about a man who refused to become a passive polio victim is a four-Kleenex weepie of note. (Review by Patrick Compton – 8/10)

Andrew Garfield and the luminous Claire Foy are marvellous in this touching movie – based on fact –about a man and his wife who changed the attitude of the medical profession to the severely disabled.

The excellent screenplay by William Nicholson effectively recreates Robin Cavendish’s early 1960s campaign for more enlightened treatment of polio sufferers and for the better social integration of the severely disabled. Although the disease hardly exists now, the film’s attitude towards the disabled is as relevant today as it was then.

The movie represents the directorial debut of Andy Serkis who is best known for his motion-capture performances as Gollum in Lord Of The Rings and Caesar in Planet Of The Apes. Although he occasionally overcooks the sentiment, Serkis generally makes an excellent job of it with plenty of English stiff upper lip and humour as his upper-middle class couple and their supporters – complete with cut-glass accents – wage a merry war against the disease.

Cavendish first meets his wife-to-be, Diana, during a cricket match on a village green, launching a straight drive into her tea service. It’s an appropriate image for the privileged, fun-filled life they ought to have led. Instead, after taking his by-now pregnant wife out to Kenya to start his new job as a tea-salesman, he contracts polio and their dreams of happiness appear to have been shattered.

At the time, polio sufferers, who were literally unable to move or even breathe without respirators, were kept incarcerated in hospital for the remainder of their lives, hidden from the world. Cavendish, after going through an extended bout of depression, becomes determined to escape this suffocating fate, even if it costs him his life.

Fortunately he has his own fortitude and wonderful support to help him. There's the indefatigable Diana, a cheerful inventor friend (Hugh Bonneville) who comes up with a respirator-equipped wheelchair, and wonderful backing from family and friends – including Tom Hollander who plays both Diana’s lovably eccentric twin brothers.

The film celebrates the way Cavendish chooses to live, giving the finger to what seems to be his miserable fate and raising a glass of claret to an alternative life. Along the way, the stiff English medical and social services establishment comes in for a pummelling, and there is one particularly disturbing sequence in a German medical facility where patients are kept like animals in an experimental institute.

Breathe is about love and loyalty, family and friendship in the face of dreadful odds. And yes, it is both enjoyable and inspirational and moving. Take tissues.

Breathe is showing at Gateway Mall. – Patrick Compton