Director: Andy Serkis
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Tom Hollander, Hugh Bonneville and Stephen Mangan
Review written by: Michael Dalton, Prime Minister
For an actor who has helped break such new technological ground, and whose work to date has dealt with the fantastical, it may seem odd that his directorial debut is a period-piece romance based on a true story. Well, in one sense it isn’t his first directorial effort, as his adaptation of The Jungle Book was put on ice after Jon Favreau’s 2016 remake for Disney. Nevertheless, putting that technicality to one side, Andy Serkis remains the perfect person to bring this moving true story to the big screen. His mother taught disabled children, while his sister has multiple sclerosis and Robin Cavendish’s son Jonathan is his business partner, helping him set up The Imaginarium: the world’s leading motion-capture performance studio.
Andy Serkis' direction should put to bed any lingering notions that his motion-capture background represents a threat to actors. With the performance-driven nature of this film, it is clear that Andy Serkis' work in those aforementioned blockbusters was rooted in the same principles as those whose bodies aren't transformed into other beings. While the source material may not be as obviously cinematic as some of the films he's starred in, Serkis imbues the film with a sense of scope, with the film's opening landscape shots looking particularly comfortable on the big screen. It's a debut of much promise, and one that suggests he possesses a keen eye for visuals, and the ability to work well with actors.
Speaking of the actors, Andrew Garfield continues to demonstrate what a likeable screen presence, and physical performer he is. For most of the film he only has his face to work with, and responds by being incredibly expressive. The twinkle in his eyes and wide smile play a big part in creating the film's infectious charm and sunny outlook. Meanwhile, while Claire Foy is solid and equally likable, she is given slightly less to work with despite the importance of her character. What she’s asked to do here isn’t a world away from what we’ve seen in The Crown, and she feels rather typecast in the role of posh, stoic British woman. Here's hoping that her upcoming portrayal of Lisbeth Salander will show off more of her range.
Clearly a conscious choice has been made to focus on the positivity and ingenuity that surrounds the story, with the film quickly reverting back to comedy anytime things start to get too dark. It is a refreshingly light-hearted approach for a film of its ilk, which is inspirational in its own way and may be a more representative of how the real-life Cavendish family dealt with the situation. However, that does result in the film frequently avoiding the darker elements of the story and its broader, societal ramifications. Too often it plays like a family jaunt, that at its worst comes off as cliché and cloying, and doesn’t give you as good a picture it could of how important Robin and Diana’s achievements were to others.
In playing it so often for laughs, the film never really sells the tension of the situation that at any point Robin could be two minutes from death, nor does it quite reach the emotional impact it wants to by the end. If the LFF opening night is anything to go by then the film is a crowd-pleaser, however there were more laughs throughout than there were sniffles at the end.
Overall, while Breathe may not be as groundbreaking as its subjects, it is a film that's impossible to dislike. Its levity may at times frustrate but it does entertain, and has a certain charm which proves infectious.
Movie Parliament Rating: MINORITY GOVERNMENT