TIFF Review: ‘Breathe’ is a Brilliant Directorial Debut

Andy Serkis is one of the greatest living actor. He has been snubbed for Oscar nominations in the past and in all likelihood, will be snubbed again for the Best Actor Nomination he so richly deserves for his third portrayal of Caesar in this summer’s WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. Having already worked as a second unit director on Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT trilogy, Serkis has become a director in his own right now. He has shot and will release his adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s JUNGLE BOOK next year. That film will utilize performance capture, the technology that Serkis has pioneered for over a decade; the same technology that has kept much of his work unnoticed by some, including the Academy. Serkis’ directorial debut BREATHE premiered here at TIFF and it is a confident, emotional and astounding film. Featuring brilliant performances by Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy, it is no surprise that an actor as brilliant as Serkis was able to get such great work from his stars.

Garfield is enchanting as Robin Cavendish, a man paralyzed by polio during the 1950s who has been designated to wait in a hospital to die while a respirator breathes for him. Cavendish was a traveller and athlete prior to his condition and with little hope of surviving long, longs for death. His wife, Diana (Foy) refuses to let him give up, as their new-born son needs to grow up knowing his father. Garfield was the wrong Spider-Man, not because of anything he did; but because of circumstance. He has since worked with Martin Scorsese in the haunting religious epic, SILENCE (2016) and is clearly a brilliant actor. I don’t miss him as the costumed hero now played by Tom Holland. I will say, his work is always getting better. One of the top actors of his generation, his work with Serkis is a testament to his growing ability.

Claire Foy IS genius in Netflix’s THE CROWN as Queen Elizabeth II of England and is equally good here. Dianne is the kind of spouse that anyone would long to have, full of love and support for Arthur, being strong when he cannot. Foy makes us fall in love with her so seamlessly; and her chemistry with Garfield is spot-on. One wonders if there is anyone in the world she could not charm with those bright blue-eyes and warm, loving smile. I see great things in her future. She is delightful.

Serkis’ film is filled with confident direction from a man who has clearly done all of the necessary preparation. The cinematography is great. The palate is warm and inviting, just like the cast. The last 15 minutes of the film are so rousing and emotional that even the hardest brute may be brought to tears. The film also takes an insightful look at the “right to die” issue of euthanasia. Simply brilliant.

Rating: 4/5