Andy Serkis is a great motion capture actor but how is he as a director?
Synopsis: For his directorial debut, Andy Serkis brings to life the inspiring true love story between Robin and Diana Cavendish, an adventurous couple who refuse to give up in the face of a devastating disease. When Robin is struck down by polio at the age of 28, he is confined to a hospital bed and given only a few months to live. With the help of Diana’s twin brothers and the groundbreaking ideas of inventor Teddy Hall, Robin and Diana dare to escape the hospital ward to seek out a full and passionate life together, raising their young son, traveling and devoting their lives to helping other polio patients. (Bleecker Street)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, and Tom Hollander
Writer: William Nicholson
Director: Andy Serkis
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 118mins
For showtimes and more, check out Breathe on movietimes.com.
When it comes to true stories, it is easy to just tell the story as is by playing it safe without taking too many risks. For some people it will be enough but others will be left wanting more. Based on the true story of Robin (Garfield) and Diana Cavendish (Foy), a couple who, after Robin was diagnosed with polio at 28, dedicated their lives to helping other severely disabled patients. This was, in essence, both a love story between Robin and Diana and a story of overcoming adversity.
The problem with that was that it may be both but it doesn’t necessarily succeed at either. In terms of storytelling, there was absolutely nothing new whatsoever with the film telling a straightforward story with familiar beats. It never gets too high or too low on an emotional level. Any film dealing with the physically disabled has a fine line (2016’s Me Before You comes to mind), however, this film chose to focus more on the Cavendish’s relationship than on the darker side of Robin’s polio. This may seem slightly disingenuous for some while stripping the story from any real stakes.
While the story was predictable, the Cavendishes were always compelling to watch. Although the story rushes through their courtship, marriage, and baby, their love for one another felt very real. Diana’s love for Robin did not allow her to give up and gave him the will to live even though it was easy to give up. Thanks to Diana’s twin brothers (both played by Hollander) and inventor Teddy Hall (Hugh Bonneville), Robin now had a means to leave the hospital so he and Diana could live a life together.
From there, the Cavendish’s life together consisted of traveling around and inspiring other severely disabled patients. Robin gave them hope by showing them that they could still have a life with their ailments. His presence was a major disruption to the status quo of how hospitals treated their disabled patients. He was a force for change until his inevitable demise, becoming the longest living British responauts.
The great chemistry and performances by Garfield and Foy were the best part of the film and managed to slightly elevate it above its safe, by-the-numbers storytelling. Both deserve a lot of credit for their performances here in portraying so much emotion despite their respective circumstances. Garfield was pretty much immobile for the majority of the film and Foy almost acted for both of them at times. Their love was rushed but felt real as Diana kept taking care of Robin.
Overall, this was a beautiful, albeit by-the-numbers biographical drama whose approach leave it lacking in drama but is elevated by the lead performances of Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy.