Breathe tells the true story of Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) and his wife, Diana (Claire Foy). Just as life is beginning for them as a married couple, with a baby on the way, he’s struck down with polio, resulting in full-body paralysis and he’s given just a few months to live, while Diana is going through their new child’s pregnancy.
The film runs from 1958 onwards, so by the time I was a child, in the late ’70s and into the ’80s, polio was something we learned about by being given the vaccine on a sugar cube. If I was in his situation, I would feel exactly the same way he does early on, but as the trailer showed, the couple try to make the best of a terrible situation, bettering life not just for them, but also for other patients suffering from the same condition, inspired by the fact that if the doctors tell him he can’t do something, then it’s time to break free.
Tom Hollander is always worth a watch and now, for the first time ever, there’s two! Yes, he plays twins Bloggs and David Blacker, and it really does feel like there’s two of them in the room.
Given the cast featured, I expected this to be the sort of film that was in the running for awards, but that seemed to escape it.
Garfield and Foy do make a great onscreen pairing, and if you’re after a family feelgood movie that’s not at all demanding, then this one is for you. For me, it rather went on a fair bit too long. Yes, there’s a story to be told, but it’s mostly the same story over and over.
Personally, I didn’t find it massively moving. I could have a heart of stone, but then again, what I thought might have transformed it for me was when I saw a moment in the trailer, in Germany, which looked quite futuristic, but it wasn’t what I was expecting that to be, so the film mostly played out as I expected otherwise.
It’s also shot in a crazy-wide 2.76:1 ratio, usually reserved for Ultra Panavision 70mm movies like Ben-Hur (1959), the 1965 Biblical epic The Greatest Story Ever Told, and brought back into mainstream use by Quentin Tarantino for 2015’s The Hateful Eight, so that seemed a bit unnecessary since it’s the kind of film which will find most of its audience on home viewing.
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and you’d be surprised if it was not a top-notch transfer for a brand new film, as it perfectly brings across the period setting as well as aging the couple as the years pass, although Ms Foy gets to look a bit better than Mr Garfield during that time. I guess men wear less make-up 😉
The audio is in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, with the soundtrack containing dialogue and a bit of score, but not too much else, but then it’s mostly a dialogue piece, anyway.
The film may have told a then-unique tale, but sadly, there’s nothing unique about the extras:
- Featurettes: The initial pieces are listed individually, so make you think there’s more than there is. They’re quite ‘blink and you’ll miss them’, they’re that short, just mixing film clips with soundbites from the cast and crew – just something that TV stations could slot in, really: Robin’s Legacy (1:58), Diana and Robin’s Love Story (2:17), Choosing To Live: The True Story (2:11) and Behind The Scenes (2:08).
- Audio descriptive track: Does exactly what it says on the tin.
- Audio commentary: from director Andy Serkis and producer Jonathan Cavendish, son of the couple whose film this is about.
The menu features a static image of the two leads, a few clips on another part of the screen and a small piece of the theme on a loop. Subtitles are in English only and there’s a bog-standard 12 chapters, hence not enough for my preference of one every five minutes.
Running time: 118 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
Released: February 26th 2018
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Format: 2.76:1 (Arri Alexa 65, Vintage 765, 35mm Ana/Spherical and Prime DNA lenses)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Andy Serkis
Producer: Jonathan Cavendish
Screenplay: William Nicholson
Music: Nitin Sawhney
Robin Cavendish: Andrew Garfield
Diana Cavendish: Claire Foy
Colin Campbell: Edward Speleers
Bloggs Blacker / David Blacker: Tom Hollander
Estate Manager: David Butler
Dr. Don McQueen: Ben Lloyd-Hughes
Mary Dawney: Miranda Raison
Katherine Robertson: Camilla Rutherford
Dr. Khan: Amit Shah
Dr. Entwistle: Jonathan Hyde
Teddy Hall: Hugh Bonneville
Dr. Clement Aitken: Stephen Mangan
Lady Neville: Diana Rigg
First Woman: Lorraine Ashbourne
Second Woman: Rosie Cavaliero
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.