Last week I attended the Opening Gala for the BFI London Film Festival 2017. It was the European Premiere for ‘Breathe’; Andy Serkis’ directorial debut.
Breathe is an autobiographical drama about Robin Cavendish, played by Andrew Garfield. The real-life Cavendish suffered from Polio in the 1950’s and because of this was paralysed from the neck down. Refusing to be limited by his disability, he became a disabled rights campaigner and a pioneer of a wheelchair with an in-built respirator allowing him to escape the confines of his bed. As well as examining that story, the film delves into Cavendish’s relationship with his remarkable wife Diana, who was played by Claire Foy. It was nice that Diana herself attended the premiere as it added to the realisation that it was a true story.
In terms of the film itself, it was a mixed bag. Was the story heart-warming? Yes, certainly. Was it a good film? Unfortunately not. Firstly, the key to effective storytelling on film is character development – that is to say, how much a character needs to adapt and change over the course of the film based on the challenges at hand. This film lacked that; the treatment of Diana and Robin’s marriage felt rushed and after the midway point the characters’ development stalled. Secondly, a story this touching should have had more heart to it on-screen. If you compare it to The Theory of Everything, which followed a very similar story arc, it just didn’t feel as emotionally compelling as it could have.
In conclusion, the acting was great, but the screenwriting did not do the story justice.