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  • 3.5 out of 5

Breathe - a lesson in Altitude Lachrymosity Syndrome


On a recent flight to Singapore I had the chance to catch up with Andy Serkis's directorial debut, Breathe. I was not prepared for the severe bout of Altitude Lachrymosity Syndrome (ALS) that I caught while watching the film. Some fellow passengers and indeed cabin crew, checked in with me to see if everything was alright.

In short, I wept, openly and uncontrollably.

This is a good old British film. By that I mean it has a stiff upper lip but a heart of mush. It's the true love story of Robin (Andrew Garfield) and Diana Cavendish (Claire Foy), 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 (Tom Hollander) and the groundbreaking ideas of inventor Teddy Hall (Hugh Bonneville), 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.

The film is produced by Jonathan Cavendish, the couple's real-life son and it's clear this is a labour of love for him. It's also clear that Andy Serkis, the master of motion-capture performances is as adept behind the camera as he is in front. Yes, the film has the somewhat predictability of such true-life stories yet Serkis allows the emotion and the feelings of the characters to completely inform the film. Garfield and Foy are a joy to watch. I know Garfield has that Marmite quality about him but he won me over with Hacksaw Ridge and in this he turns in a memorable performance. Claire Foy has that rare English rose appearance yet brings most of the emotion of the film.

As an historical piece, I found it interesting. To see how polio victims were treated is genuinely heart-breaking and disturbing. The film ultimately is uplifting, if predictable in its ending. It is designed to tell the Cavendish's remarkable story and show their love and genuine struggle with suicide and ultimately the right to die.

I look forward to Andy Serkis's next time in the director's chair.

Although it is out of cinemas now, Breathe will shortly appear on satellite and streaming services. I urge you to see it but stock up on the tissues beforehand. Oh, and if you watch this on an aeroplane, be careful of catching ALS!


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