REVIEW: Breathe

2 01 2018

Toronto International Film Festival

NOTE: Since I reviewed this film for a bigger outlet, I can’t really reprint the review in its entirety. From now on, when I’ve given a film a proper review elsewhere, I’ll use this space to expand upon certain elements that might not have made their way into the full review.

“Breathe” is pretty much everything you’d expect of it – little more, little less. If you love stately, mannered British period dramas, you might enjoy it more than I did. In my opinion, the main highlight is Andrew Garfield, perhaps our greatest working humanist actor. He just breathes (pun fully intended) so much life into a character with such intense restrictions on his performance that it’s remarkable to observe, quality of movie aside. As I said in my review…

Unsurprisingly, Garfield nails the immediate micro-level specificity necessitated by portraying someone with such a debilitating condition. He’s robbed of so many key acting tools: the scope to take in an entire scene, the ability to react in full, the emphasis in his extremities. Yet within this tightly proscribed frame, Garfield still manages the full expressive capabilities for which has garnered great acclaim. In Breathe, he captures that same moving range from elation to depression.

For Serkis and screenwriter William Nicholson, the real story of Robin Cavendish is not a tale cut in the mold of a “Great Man” biopic. Robin does not strive to achieve the extraordinary. He merely wishes to reestablish the ordinary, a feat practically unthinkable in the mid-20th century. People in his condition simply did not exist outside of hospitals. Plugged into a respirator that does all the breathing for him, Robin always remains no more than two minutes away from death were the machine to stop operating. Rather than resigning himself to waste away on a stationary cot, he enlists his devoted wife Diana (played by Claire Foy) and many other ingenious friends to invent the tools necessary to enable the life few imagined was possible.

It’s also intriguing to think that while this is technically Andy Serkis’ debut feature, he directed it after his take on “The Jungle Book.” I might have to reassess “Breathe” in light of that film when it comes out. B-

Read my full review on Slashfilm.

 

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REVIEW: Breathe

13 09 2015

Breathe_1sht_final.inddBreathe,” a film directed by international actress Mélanie Laurent (Shoshanna!), is located somewhere between the adolescent angst of “Fish Tank” and the exploratory joys of “Blue is the Warmest Color.”  It seems counterintuitive, but Laurent is not at her best when coaxing great performances out of her young actors.  Rather, her film succeeds most when she photographs them in silent anguish, isolated in large crowds of exuberant people.

Laurent charts an age-old teenage tale in “Breathe,” the journey from companionship to the moment when the waters of friendship begin to run green with envy.  The rather unremarkable Claire (Joséphine Japy) finds relief from the mundanity of home and school by hanging out with her class’ newest addition, wild child Sarah (Lou De Laâge).  While initially fast friends, their bond breaks slowly – then suddenly.

“Breathe” has its moments of intrigue and insight, particularly whenever one character finds it difficult to perform the action described in the title.  But overall, Laurent brings little new to a fairly familiar tale.  It’s worth supporting a film by a woman, about women, yet for everyone – just don’t expect to have it take your breath away.  C+ / 2stars