It’s no huge surprise that Andy Serkis’ directorial debut would be such a transparent pitch for awards recognition. Since breaking through as a motion-capture performer in Lord of the Rings (and plenty other films since), Serkis has campaigned consistently and relentlessly for the official recognition of the Academy. Since that fight’s been fruitless, why not resort to the ol’ reliable tragic biopic?
Breath’s aligns its Oscar-bait intentions with Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield), an Englishmen diagnosed with polio who went on to defy doctors’ orders and live a full, happy life with his wife (Claire Foy) and son (who produced this film).
The film is split into thirds. There’s the entirely inauspicious first act, where Serkis fast-forwards through Robin and Diana’s meet-cute with no sense of editing rhythm or aesthetic identity. Thankfully things pick up in the midsection, as we settle into the couple’s post-polio life carried by Garfield’s trademark charm. It’s an effective rebuttal to ‘inspiration porn’, with Breathe emphasising Robin as an ordinary man with or without the paralysis.
Shame about the final act, then, which pivots into stirring activism – complete with inspirational speech, standing ovation et al – to its detriment. Think you’ll be missing the Oscars again, Andy.