Actor Andy Serkis has brought many memorable movie figures to life including Caesar from the Apes franchise, Gollum in Lord of the Rings and Supreme Leader Snoke in Star Wars through his motion capture work over the past two decades, but now the performer is stepping behind the camera to direct a grounded story devoid of any science fiction elements. Breathe stars Academy Award nominee Andrew Garfield as Robin Cavendish, an English adventurer exploring Kenya in 1958 with his new wife Diana played by Claire Foy from Netflix’s The Crown. Robin believed he had an exciting life of ahead of him, but unfortunately contracted Polio out of nowhere with a diagnosis of only a few months to live.

Breathe does have some pacing issues starting in the first act which seems to be in such a rush and just throws this couple together without knowing anything about these two lovers we’re supposed to care about. The vibe also changes in the film from a bleak examination concerning how the disabled were treated in the mid 20th century to scenes that makes you think Serkis wanted to make the happiest little film about contracting Polio ever. Breathe tries to serve you up a few different themes that don’t always blend together well at times with Director Andy Serkis seemingly unable to decide which emotional direction to take the film.

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What saves Breathe from being a manic mess is the acting performances of the two leads who are tasked with carrying the soft material. Andrew Garfield does stellar work again as Robin who goes through a rollercoaster ride of feelings, dark thoughts and triumphs battling this crippling disease. Garfield will make you smile as he defies the odds then make you squirm in your chair as he battles just to breathe with the help of a machine. Claire Foy matches Garfield’s talents in Breathe as Robin’s wife turned care giver who is determined to give her husband the normal life he wants. She is the character that makes you realize polio has numerous victims when it strikes a family causing nothing to be easy or the same when it comes to everyday life.

The strong work from the two leads and gorgeous cinematography are not enough to elevate Breathe to the next level in terms of Award Season Contenders. The film does shed light on the terrible treatment of the disabled who were cast aside by doctors who were only interested in keeping the patients stable and still by any means necessary, but the uneven vibe hurts the flow of the scenes in the overall story. Breathe needed an edge to make the work impactful and it’s just not there in a film that is determined to make you smile while awkwardly taking sad turns that confuse the viewer to how they should feel about the experience.

Overall, I give Breathe 2.5 out of 4 stars.

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