Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy Star in a Tale of Love and Polio
The trailer for Breathe plays itself at first like a jaunty period romantic comedy — the type of particularly English comedy of manners we’ve all seen before. “I could ask you to dance, and you could say ‘Well, I don’t feel like dancing,'” says a suit-clad Andrew Garfield. “And I could say, ‘Well, maybe some other time.”
“Or I could just not ask,” he tells Claire Foy, doing her best bashful brit in a ballgown. He grabs her by the hand, and off to the dance floor and a subsequent whirlwind romance they go. They even go for a drive in one of those newfangled automobiles, as people in the ’50s loved to do.
Then comes the almost expected beat where her family doesn’t approve of the courtship. Foy’s character father protests that she hardly even knows the man, and she replies, “The thing is, I just know this is it.”
It’s all very expected and familiar, until, of course, we’re all reminded why people who say “Oh, I was born in the wrong time period. I just wish I could live back then” are completely misguided.
That thing, in this case, is polio. Garfield’s character contracts a nasty strain of the then incurable disease and is relegated to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, which totally leaves us with a completely different movie than the first 45 seconds of the trailer had set us up for.
The film is actually based on the real life story of Robin Cavendish, a British tea broker who was paralyzed from the neck down at the age of 28 and set out to become both an advocate and example for the disabled. Initially given just three months to live and told he would never leave the hospital again due to his need to be hooked up to a breathing device at all times, Cavendish sought more and pushed for medical advances that would help him live a fuller life. He went on to travel wildly, remained a devoted husband and father, and picked up an Order of the British Empire along the way.
Garfield takes the part fresh off his first Academy Award nomination, and clearly hopes to keep his string of challenging roles going. Foy meanwhile finds herself as a big screen leading lady for only the second time after 2011’s Wreckers, and the first after her breakthrough role as a young Queen Elizabeth in The Crown.
The film will also mark the directorial debut of Andy Serkis, yes the actor best known for his performance captures roles like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings saga (Serkis actually oversaw filming of Jungle Book before directing Breathe, but the former CGI-heavy film won’t be released until next year).
Breathe is scheduled to open the BFI London Film Festival on October 4th, and then hit select theaters later that month.