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Review: Breathe (TIFF)

Breathe (TIFF)
09.16.2017
8 10

PLOT: A handsome, adventurous, world-traveling English tea broker, Jonathan Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) is felled by polio, leaving him unable to move anything below his neck or even breathe unaided by a respirator. Initially resigned to his fate, the love of his wife (Claire Foy) encourages him to try and live life to the fullest, and not let illness beat him.

REVIEW: BREATHE, while not the directorial debut of Andy Serkis, is his first completed film as a director, with him having shot JUNGLE BOOK prior to this, although it’s still held up in post-production due to the CGI involved and to presumably give it distance from the Disney film. BREATHE is much smaller-scale, and actually a traditional Hollywood biopic (with a nicely written screenplay by William Nicholson), with Serkis guiding it with a sure hand, showing he’s as comfortable doing deeply human drama as directing folks in mo-cap suits.

Shot lavishly at an ultra-wide 2:35:1 aspect ratio by Robert Richardson (it may actually be even wider - with it looking at TIFF in the 4K print like 2:70:1), BREATHE feels like a throwback to David Lean-era directing. Even though it tells such a personal story, it does so on a grand scale. Cavendish’s struggle to live life to the fullest is presented as an almost swashbuckling tale, with very little in the way of melancholy. Garfield plays him with a wide smile and ever moving eye-brows (one of the few things he can still move), and it’s another strong part for the actor - who’s proving that maybe being let go as Spider-Man was the best thing that could have happened to him as it’s freed him up for movies like this.

Claire Foy, who rocketed onto the A-list after “The Crown” and is the new Lisbeth Salander is his equal as his thoroughly modern wife. The opposite of the icy blue-blooded leading ladies we see in British period epics, she’s warm and lovely as Diana Cavendish, and utterly selfless in her attempt to have her husband’s life be more than just a series of doctor’s visits. Foy and Garfield have excellent chemistry, and play off each other beautifully.

Hugh Bonneville, of “Downton Abbey” has a nice part as an inventor buddy of Cavendish who invents gadgets to help him get around, while ‘Episodes” Stephen Mangan is an advocate for the disabled who helps him try to improve the lives of his fellow afflicted. Tom Hollander steals scenes as Diane’s twin brothers, with the CGI/doubling pretty flawless.

Through it all, Serkis keeps the movie rolling right along in a highly confident manner, which speaks to the fact that, even though this is technically his first completed film, years of working with people like Peter Jackson has clearly rubbed off on him. He has a natural storytelling ability. BREATHE has a few really nice touches, such as the epic scope and musical selections, including inspired use of the Lee Marvin classic “Wand’rin’ Star”. It’s a beautifully made drama that should earn some really good word-of-mouth and establish Serkis as a legit A-list director.

Source: JoBlo.com

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