At the age of 28, Robert Cavendish was paralysed from the neck down by polio. Given only months to live on a respirator, he beat the odds and became one of the longest living ‘responauts’. Andy Serkis takes on Cavendish’s story with the crowd-pleasing biopic Breathe.
Opening with Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) meeting his future wife Diana (Claire Foy), Serkis smartly runs through their courtship and early marriage in a few minutes, trusting that we’ll buy their love for and dedication to each other. It’s all a bit jolly hockey sticks and tea on the lawn, and Robert Richardson’s rich cinematography works with the set design to create a vision of English life dripping with nostalgia and class privilege. But as an opening it establishes its characters well and gets us to where we need to be – Cavendish confined to his hospital bed, immobile and mute. At first, Cavendish seems irretrievably depressed. Unable even to speak and with nothing to live for, he can’t bear to even look at Diana and their baby son.
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