Thursday, 2 November 2017

Breathe (2017)

Heartwarming biopics can be challenging for me. This one, produced by the son of the subject of the film, clearly is painting the rosiest picture it possibly can of the producer’s father. First time director Andy Serkis films the story beautifully, and drains as much pathos as he can from the story, but it all keeps coming back to how clearly tainted the film is by its own conflict of interest.

Real people make 2 dimensional subjects most of the time. They are either stereotypes of who the person was (as in the case of historical dramas about famous figures) or they are overly flattering portraits in vanity films like this one. They don’t get to live, or breathe, one might say, cause they are too busy being ideal.

That is certainly the case in this seducing story of Robin Cavindish and Diana Blacker, whose personal story provides the opportunity to tell not only their idealized romance but also make a case that disabled people are people too. Cavindish and his family have contributed much to the cause of improving the lives of disabled folks and advocating on their behalf. The movie mostly glosses over that to focus on the romance but it does give Garfield a great speech moment.

But in the world of Breathe, Cavindish’s struggles with polio are almost an inconvenience. Yes it appears the real Cavindish was an inspiring optimist who concealed any pains and was a shining example to others. But the film almost makes it seem like it wasn’t hard at all for him or his never wavering family. It all just felt a bit too convenient to feel real. Despite being beautiful and quite lovely, Breathe remains a bit removed from reality. Perhaps its advocacy argument would have been stronger if it felt more real.

But the legacy of its subject does suggest a more inspiring tone. From what I have read this is likely how Cavindish would have wanted to be remembered. And his contributions appear to have been quite substantial so whose to complain. Serkis has certainly constructed a lovely film which is never boring and quite entertaining.

Even if it feels a bit more like fiction than fact.

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Clare Foy, Diana Rigg
Director: Andy Serkis
Writer: William Nicholson

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