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Breathe is a 2017 biographical drama film directed by Andy Serkis in his directorial debut, from a screenplay by William Nicholson. It stars Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Hugh Bonneville, Tom Hollander, Ed Speleers and Dean-Charles Chapman, and tells the story of Robin Cavendish, who became paralyzed from the neck down by polio at age 28.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byAndy Serkis
Produced byJonathan Cavendish
Written byWilliam Nicholson
Music byNitin Sawhney
CinematographyRobert Richardson
Edited byMasahiro Hirakubo
Distributed by
Release date
  • 11 September 2017 (2017-09-11) (TIFF)
  • 13 October 2017 (2017-10-13) (United States)
  • 27 October 2017 (2017-10-27) (United Kingdom)
Running time
117 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Budget$15 million[1]
Box office$4.9 million[2]

The film had its world premiere at the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2017. It was released in the United States by Bleecker Street on October 13, 2017, and in the United Kingdom by STXinternational on October 27, 2017.



In 1958 in Kenya, Robin Cavendish falls ill from polio at age 28, not long after meeting and marrying his wife Diana. Paralyzed from the neck down and unable to breathe without the assistance of a respirator, he is given only three months to live. He is repatriated to Britain. Initially he is depressed, refusing to see his wife or newborn son, Jonathan, and wishing to be removed from life support. However, Diana is persistent and slowly his spirits improve. When Diana realises she can provide for his daily care and suggests they move Robin and the respirator home, Robin brightens considerably. Over the strenuous objections of the hospital's administrator Dr. Entwistle (who tells Diana that he will die if without the ventilator for two minutes) and with the help of some of the other doctors and nurses, Robin is brought home and meets his son.

While Jonathan is playing with his dog, it knocks out the plug of the ventilator. Robin realises, but unable to move or speak, he cannot get Diana's attention, so instead makes clicking noises with his tongue. Eventually, Diana finds him unresponsive and plugs it back in.

Seeing his son push a pram gives Robin the idea for a mobile chair with a built-in respirator, so he enlists the help of his friend Teddy Hall to build one. Using the chair, and with the help of Diana and her two brothers, Robin is able to travel away from home for the first time, and with a specially constructed van, the family begins to venture out further, even flying the van on a cargo plane to Spain.

Teddy makes various improvements to his design over time, and eventually Robin teams up with Dr Clement Aitken to produce more of the chairs. After observing a German hospital's prison-like confinement of their severely disabled patients, Robin then appears at a conference and appeals to doctors to treat their patients more humanely, drawing a standing ovation. Robin returns to his original hospital with more of Teddy's chairs, and the rest of the patients in the ward leave with him.

Years later, Robin begins to experience severe bleeding due to his extended time on the respirator, and decides it is time to stop prolonging his life indefinitely. He discusses his decision with Dr Aitken who advises that Diana and Jonathan cannot be involved. He holds a farewell party with his many friends. Sometime later, he instructs his family to leave and return to the house at precise times. Jonathan, now in his twenties, and Diana see Aitken driving away and return to the house. Fading, Robin expresses his love for both of them, and dies, having transformed the lives of many others like him.[3]



The Cavendish's son, Jonathan Cavendish, who runs Imaginarium Productions production company with director Andy Serkis, commissioned writer William Nicholson to write the film's screenplay,[12] and is one of the producers of the film. He stated in an interview with London Evening Standard that in producing the film, he wanted to capture the "swashbuckling band of eccentrics" he knew in his childhood.[13]

During filming, Garfield had to remain immobile as Cavendish was depicted being tended to with everyday tasks such as bathing, adding, "But we also had to show that Robin and Diana remained romantically attractive to each other...The amazing thing was that everyone around Robin became his body. He became the mastermind behind all this invention." Garfield characterized Diana as more than just a soul mate, but "Robin's access to the world. He had tremendous dependence, physically and emotionally, on Diana." This influenced Garfield's own relationship with Claire Foy, who portrays Diana, saying, "I would treat her body as my body. There’s a beautiful symmetry and synchronicity there." Garfield explained that he spent time with the real-life Diana, Jonathan and their friends and family, which allowed him to absorb something of Robin's personality, and "glimpse the man inside the respirator".[12]

Regarding her portrayal of Diana, Claire Foy stated, "The most important thing to get was their love for each other. I didn’t want to over-sentimentalise her; and she definitely doesn't want to be seen as a saint, or an angel, or incredible sort of nurse. It was just actually love." According to Jonathan Cavendish, his father's first thought after being struck down by polio was to "turn off the machine", reasoning that Diana was only 25, and telling her, "You can start again." Touching upon Diana's rejection of this notion, Foy states, "She wasn't going anywhere. That's the thing I found the easiest to understand: she loved him! She was going through it with him. There was no cutting and running, as far as she was concerned. That wasn't ever going to be an option."[12]


In September 2016, Bleecker Street acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film.[14] In February 2017, STX Entertainment acquired U.K. distribution rights to the film.[15]

The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2017.[16][17] It was also screened at the Opening Night Gala at the BFI London Film Festival.[18] It was released in the United States on October 13, 2017,[19] and the United Kingdom on October 27, 2017.[20]


Critical responseEdit

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 67% based on 154 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Strong performances from Breathe's well-matched leads help add an edge to a biopic that takes a decidedly heartwarming approach to its real-life story."[21] On Metacritic, the film holds a weighted average score of 51 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[22]


Year Award/Festival Category Recipient(s) Result
26th Philadelphia Film Festival Archie Award – Best First Feature
Andy Serkis
26th Heartland Film Festival Truly Moving Picture Award
Andy Serkis, Imaginarium Productions, and Bleecker Street
20th British Independent Film Awards Best Make-up and Hair Design
Jan Sewell
Best Sound
Sound team


  1. ^ "The story behind Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy disability drama 'Breathe'". ScreenDaily. September 10, 2017. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  2. ^ "Breathe (2017)". The Numbers. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Barraclough, Leo (May 5, 2016). "Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy Join Andy Serkis' 'Breathe'". Variety.
  4. ^ Kilday, Gregg (September 10, 2016). "Toronto: Andrew Garfield Starrer 'Breathe' Goes to Bleecker Street, Participant". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  5. ^ Evans, Greg (September 10, 2016). "Bleecker Street & Participant Media Nab North American Distribution Rights To Andy Serkis' 'Breathe' Starring Andrew Garfield – Toronto". Deadline Hollywood.
  6. ^ De Semlyen, Phil (May 5, 2016). "Andy Serkis to direct Breathe: Andrew Garfield signs up". Empire.
  7. ^ White, James (July 14, 2016). "Game Of Thrones' Dean-Charles Chapman joins Andy Serkis' Breathe". Empire. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  8. ^ "Bleecker Street & Participant Media Nab North American Distribution Rights To Andy Serkis' 'Breathe' Starring Andrew Garfield – Toronto". Deadline Hollywood. September 10, 2016. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
  9. ^ Renton, Alice; Renton, Tim (August 10, 1994). "Obituary: Robin Cavendish". The Independent.
  10. ^ "Bleecker Street and Participant Media acquire rights to Andy Serkis' BREATHE". Bleeker Street. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  11. ^ Lodge, Guy (September 11, 2017). "Review: Andrew Garfield in 'Breathe'". Variety. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  12. ^ a b c Bamigboye, Baz (March 16, 2017). "Claire and Andrew bring to life a remarkable love story: Actress tells BAZ BAMIGBOYE about her role in new film Breathe". Daily Mail.
  13. ^ Dex, Robert (May 17, 2016). "Rings star Andy Serkis on filming another swashbuckling band of adventurers". London Evening Standard.
  14. ^ Donnelly, Matt (September 10, 2016). "Andrew Garfield’s ‘Breathe’ Bought by Participant Media, Bleecker Street". Yahoo! Lifestyle.
  15. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (February 8, 2017). "STX Sets First UK Distribution Slate With 'Breathe', 'Home Again', 'The Irishman' & More As Offshore Expansion Continues". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  16. ^ Staff. "The Toronto International Film Festival unveils first slate of films for 2017". TIFF. TIFF. Retrieved July 25, 2017.
  17. ^ "Breathe". Toronto International Film Festival. Archived from the original on December 6, 2017. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  18. ^ Korsner, Jason (June 29, 2017). "Andy Serkis Directorial Debut to Open London Film Festival". What's Worth Seeing.
  19. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (June 29, 2017). "'Breathe' Trailer: Andy Serkis-Helmed Pic Starring Andrew Garfield & Claire Foy To Open London Film Festival". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  20. ^ Grater, Tom (March 17, 2017). "STX dates first UK release 'Breathe' starring Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy". Screen International. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  21. ^ "Breathe (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  22. ^ "Breathe reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved November 29, 2017.

External linksEdit