Thursday, October 19, 2017

He refused to be bed ridden

Robin Cavendish spent 36 years of his life paralyzed from polio, a disease he contracted while working in Kenya in the 1950s. Breathe, a new movie starring Andrew Garfield and marking the directorial debut of actor Andy Serkis, turns Cavendish's story into a life-affirming celebration. It may sound odd for a movie about a paralyzed man, but Serkis (The Lord of the Rings and the Planet of the Apes movies), has made a sometimes giddy, feel-good movie -- and, as a result, Breathe never feels entirely credible. Early on, the movie focuses on Cavendish's relationship with Diana (Claire Foy), the love of his life. The two meet, marry and head to Kenya. When the stricken Cavendish is brought back to England, he initially wishes for nothing more than to die. He has no desire to spend his life attached to a breathing machine. For an active adventurous man, life had lost its meaning. Diana, who by this time is pregnant, eventually brings her husband out of his funk and the rest of the movie charts the ways in which Cavendish struggles to lead a meaningful life. With the help of an inventor (Hugh Bonneville), Cavendish labors to escape his bedroom, an ambition that led to the invention of a mobile wheelchair with a built-in breathing machine. For those who are unable to breathe on their own, life becomes a new kind of adventure, one dependent on a continuous flow of electricity and, ultimately, on others. Displaying a preternatural helping of good humor, Garfield gives a spirited performance as Cavendish, no small feat considering he's limited to working with his face and voice. Serkis delivers moments of interest, but the movie eventually becomes mawkish with a conclusion that proves touching -- if not heartbreaking. If Breathe advances a view that's anything close to the truth, Cavendish probably wouldn't have wanted it any other way, but Breathe might have benefited from a little less burnish and a lot more soul searching.

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