By: Hillary Busis
There’s a swoon-worthy romance at the center of Breathe, the beautifully shot period drama that marks the directorial debut of actor Andy Serkis—but that’s only part of the story. The film focuses on Robin Cavendish, a mid-century British tea broker who found himself facing a dire prognosis after being struck by polio at the age of 28. Cavendish was paralyzed from the neck down, at a time when that condition usually sentenced patients to a lifetime in a hospital bed—but he managed to live a full and exciting life all the same, becoming a critical advocate for the disabled and helping to invent a mobile respirator that dramatically improved quality of life for him and other paralyzed people in the process.
The film stars Andrew Garfield as Cavendish and Claire Foy as Diana, his devoted wife—an English rose with a spine of pure steel. You’ll see their love bloom in this new trailer for the film, debuting exclusively on Vanity Fair—and you’ll also see them face extraordinary adversity. Perhaps it’s best summed up in this simple exchange: “You can’t love this,” a despondent Cavendish tells his wife shortly after learning the extent of his paralysis. “Apparently, I can,” Diana replies.
Serkis was inspired to tell the story by someone who was very close to it: his producing partner, Jonathan Cavendish, the son of Robin and Diana. As Serkis told Vanity Fair’s Katey Rich and Mike Hogan ahead of the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, he felt a personal connection to the story as well. “My upbringing was very much in a medical world. My father was a doctor in Iraq; he created a hospital for people in Baghdad. My mum taught disabled children, so I grew up with children who had polio and spina bifida, and it’s always been part of my life. These stories, I do feel a vested interest.“
The film, which also features Game of Thrones alum Diana Rigg and Downton Abbey stalwart Hugh Bonneville, opens in limited release October 13, and will expand in the following weeks.