Paint By Numbers

Can an uplifting polio flick be too calculated? Yes.

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Breathe
Opens November 3

Look, it’s a film about disabilities opening close to Oscar season!

Well, that’s not calculated at all.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with Breathe. It’s just that it plays it very safe and doesn’t break any new ground. One doesn’t have to look further than The Theory of Everything to find the same old beats.

At least Breathe gets the getting-to-know-you part of the story over with early and quickly. Robin (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network) and Diana Cavendish (Claire Foy, The Crown) are an adventurous English couple living in Kenya in 1958. Unfortunately, Robin contracts polio and loses mobility and the capacity to breathe on his own. He’s not expected to live more than three months.

The once-outdoorsy Brit falls into a depression that forces his wife and friends to make extreme efforts to give him at least a semblance of a normal life. It’s the beginning of a journey that culminates in the invention of the Cavendish chair, a contraption that improves the quality of life of the extremely disabled to an unprecedented degree.

The luscious cinematography is disproportionately superior to the story, not a surprise since Robert Richardson (Scorsese and Tarantino’s go-to guy) is behind the camera. One scene featuring a German facility that keeps severely impaired patients in cubbies is more potent than anything else in the film.

Breathe is motion-capture pioneer Andy Serkis’ directorial debut. It’s traditional to a fault. Serkis’ sole focus seems to be on moving the plot forward, but the film is best when he takes his foot off the gas.

Garfield and Foy are good but their characters feel skin-deep. The fact that the Cavendish’s only son is a producer of the film is a surefire way to prevent less savoury (and therefore more interesting) details from reaching the public.

It’s a good movie to take your grandma to, but that’s about it.