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Oscar-nominee Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) and Claire Foy (The Crown) lead the directorial feature debut from actor Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes), a period drama following a happy couple who look to overcome the trials ahead when one of them becomes disabled.

Handsome, adventurous and brilliant, Robin (Garfield) has his whole life ahead of him when he is paralysed by polio. Against all advice, Robin’s beautiful wife Diana (Foy) brings him home; where her devotion, intimacy and witty determination transcends his disability and sets him free. Together they refuse to be imprisoned by his suffering; transforming the lives of others with their humour, courage and lust for life.


Directed by

Drama, True Story & Biography, Romance, Festival & Independent


Rating: M Adult themes


"Be all you can be" isn’t just an inspirational training slogan, it’s a Hollywood biopic staple. Yes, it’s easy to be cynical about able-bodied actors in tragic Oscar-bait. Especially so when, in his directorial debut, Andy Serkis doesn’t so much pull at the heartstrings as attach a tow truck and hit accelerate. Set cynicism aside, though, and Breathe is a heart-warming melodrama, eschewing darkness and despair to focus on the life-affirming positive.

Set in 1950s Britain, Andrew Garfield plays Robin Cavendish, paralysed from the neck down by polio at just 28. Given just months to live, he mouths the words: “I want to die.” Yet, with the determination of his pregnant wife Diana (Claire Foy), and the help of Bloggs (Tom Hollander) and Teddy (Hugh Bonneville), Robin leaves hospital, watches his son grow, travels, and helps develop a wheelchair incorporating a portable respirator, freeing fellow polio sufferers from permanent hospitalisation.

Footage of the actual Cavendish during the credits serves to underline the reality of this remarkable story, co-produced by Robin and Diana’s son, Jonathan. Serkis proves a solid director, but despite the committed performances from Foy and Garfield (acting with only his face at his disposal), a sagging second act kept my emotions at bay in an inspirational tale that’s a little less than inspirational in the telling.

Nonetheless, if biopics like The Theory of Everything move you, this is a superbly acted drama, beautifully shot by Tarantino’s go-to cinematographer, Robert Richardson. Banish your inner cynic and you’ll be rewarded by a touching love story, tender family narrative and a profound message of hope in witnessing ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances.

FilmInk (Australia)


Manages to make the stereotypes work…

TimeOut (New York)


While it's a given that [Andy] Serkis can wrangle the digital side, it bodes well for his upcoming Jungle Book that he can prioritise the internal on occasion.



It's a plenty good story to tell, but even by the time the respirator takes its last gasp, I was ultimately unmoved.

Rolling Stone


Andy Serkis directs a brilliant Andrew Garfield in a flawed but moving take on the true story of Robin Cavendish, who defied polio to make a better life for himself and others like him.

Los Angeles Times


William Nicholson's script is a stiff-upper-lip ode with spice notes of plucky humour, but lacking a messy intelligence.

New York Times


This exceptional life ... is smothered by a cloying fairy tale romance that turns every challenge the couple faces into a lark.

Hollywood Reporter


Its noble intentions [are] hobbled by a trite script, flat characters and a relentlessly saccharine tone that eventually starts to grate.

Variety (USA)


Keeps its eyes moist and its upper lip stiff to the last - but its sweeping inspirational gestures rarely reach all the way to the heart. (Sarah Watt)


Remarkably neither morbid nor depressing given its theme, Breathe brings a stale genre a breath of fresh air.