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With her love he lived

Life is idyllic for Robin and Diana Cavendish. They’ve started a family in Kenya, where Robin hopes to make his fortune as a tea broker. But everything is upended when Robin becomes ill. The diagnosis is shattering — polio — and the prognosis even more so. Paralyzed from the neck down, Robin won’t ever be able to breathe without the help of a respirator. Returning to the U.K., Robin faces a grim future in a hospital bed. But neither Robin nor Diana are prepared to accept that cruel fate. Andy Serkis, best known for such memorable performance capture work as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings series, takes his first serious stab at directing and succeeds rather marvelously. Films like Breathe require a lot from audiences, including a high level of empathy. Such a heavy subject is bound to keep those away seeking lighter fare. But this is a film that rises above the doldrums. It inspires in the best way, in large part because it’s based on a true story. Throughout the course of the film, Robin and Diana refuse to accept the limitations that the disease has imposed upon them. The first step, getting out of hospital and into their own home, is an unprecedented and herculean challenge embodied in the skepticism of dour Dr. Entwistle (Jonathan Hyde). At home, the Cavendish family enlists the help of family and friends, including eccentric inventor Teddy Hall (a wonderful performance by Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville), who equips a wheelchair with a respirator that allows Robin to go outside — heck, maybe even to travel abroad. Of course, the film wouldn’t work half as well or be as nearly as affecting if not for a host of really great performances, starting with Andrew Garfield as Robin. Garfield’s performance is like an act of will, so steady, persuasive, even charming, that one can’t help but feel buoyed by his good-natured determination. Likewise, Claire Foy takes on Diana with similar grace and ferocity. Together, they are entirely believable as a tag team duo who simply won’t surrender in the face of any obstacle. Both the screenplay by William Nicholson and lovely camerawork of cinematographer Robert Richardson notably enhance the film. And there are moments that chill, such as a scene in a German clinic where polio patients lie imprisoned in iron-lung chambers in a large antiseptic room, and another when Robin nearly dies due to a power outage. In the end, what shines through is an important message about the indomitability of the human spirit. Courtesy: Bruce DeMara, Toronto Star

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Directed by: 
Andy Serkis
Running Time: 
Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Diana Rigg, Miranda Raison, Dean-Charles Chapman
Official site: 
Screenplay by: 
William Nicholson

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