Breathe

Directed by first-time director Andy Serkis best known for his CGI work as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings movie series, Breathe is a heartwarming and inspirational movie based on the true story of Robin Cavendish who became one of the first polio patients on a respirator to leave the confines of a hospital. At the beginning, Robin, played by Academy Award-nominated actor Andrew Garfield, falls in love with his a beautiful young woman named Diana, played by Golden Globe winner Claire Foy from the 2016 Netflix series The Crown. Eventually, they both lead an adventurous life living in Africa after they get married. Unexpectedly, in late 1958 at the age of 28, Robin is diagnosed with polio that leaves him paralyzed and fully dependent on a ventilator. Even after the birth of his Jonathan, he descends into a great state of despair over having to spend the rest of his life, which doctors tell him may only last a few months, in a hospital bed without any way of escaping to the outside world. Diana tries to encourage him to have the will to live for the sake of their new son. Against the doctor’s orders that he would be risking his life, Robin decides to leave the hospital and move back home with his wife and son where he can use the ventilator at home. A so-called responaut, he even dares to go outside his house and travel places. He asks his good friend and Oxford professor Teddy Hall, played by Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville, who is also an inventor to design a wheelchair that could also include a ventilator. With his newfound freedom, Robin becomes an advocate for the severely disabled in the UK and even travels to a conference in Germany where all the experts and medical professionals are astonished that he is out in the world and are deeply fascinated by his groundbreaking wheelchair. The film is especially heartbreaking when the audience sees how many of the paralyzed polio patients at the time are placed in iron lungs, which allows them to breathe but essentially trap them in a coffin unable to ever leave the hospital wards. Robin along with other disability advocates help to raise finances to provide the specialized wheelchairs to those needing a ventilator, including his other friends still at the hospital. Besides being a movie about Robin’s courageous struggle to live, it also tells a poignant story of the constancy of love between Robin and Diana that always remained in spite of the difficulties associated with caring for somebody with a disability. Robin is able to reach a point in life in which he is happy to be alive and grateful to be with his beloved wife and see his son grow up. Overall, I found to be one of the more inspirational stories about those with disabilities and how one person can help drastically change those suffering and have the will to live. Although the movie was slow at times, the dynamic and beautiful acting performances of the two main characters help to create a genuinely emotional cinematic experience.

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