“Breathe” aims to return Andrew Garfield to Oscar contention

After being snubbed for his performance in The Social Network, Andrew Garfield took a detour from the awards season for a while. Part of that was his turn as Spider-Man, to be sure, though overall he just wasn’t making Academy friendly fare. Then, last year found him in contention for a pair of prestige titles, with Hacksaw Ridge and Silence. The former got Garfield his first nomination, while the latter expanded his range. This week, Breathe opens and hopes to propel Garfield back into the Best Actor field. All of the ingredients are there, so it’s definitely possible that we’re entering a period of time where Garfield will consistently be in the Oscar hunt.

The film is a biopic of Robin Cavendish (Garfield) and Diana Cavendish (Claire Foy), a couple that defied the odds in truly spectacular fashion. When Robin is diagnosed with polio and loses the use of his legs at the age of 28, he is initially given only a few short months to live. At that time, he’s confined to a hospital bed and essentially left for dead. With the help of Diana’s twin brothers (both played by Tom Hollander) as well as the quirky yet groundbreaking ideas of inventor Teddy Hall (Hugh Bonneville), Robin is able to leave the hospital. Not only that, he and Diana lead a full life, including raising their young son, traveling the world, and devoting their lives to helping other polio patients in similar situations. Andy Serkis makes his directional debut here, with the script coming from William Nicholson. The supporting cast here includes Emily Bevan, Miranda Raison, Diana Rigg, Ed Speleers, and more. Nitin Sawhney contributes the score, while cinematography is by the great Robert Richardson.

Despite being an absolute sucker for dramas that make you cry (seriously, I sob at over a dozen movies a year), this one oddly left me stone faced. The emotions are there and Serkis executes them all well enough, but it just felt a little cold. I know that doesn’t seem to make sense, but it was simply missing the special sauce that moved me. Foy is excellent, Garfield continues to build on his work last year (he’s far better here, for my money), and Serkis proves he definitely can direct. Some are absolutely in love with this one. It just didn’t turn out to be my cup of tea.

Oscar wise, Breathe is as much a play for Foy as it is for Garfield. That being said, I’m sure a robust campaign will be launched. Look for categories like Best Picture, Best Director (for Serkis), Best Actor (for Garfield), Best Supporting Actress (for Foy, unless she ends up ultimately going Lead), Best Original Screenplay (for Nicholson), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score to get real pushes. Foy and Garfield are the main concerns though, along with Picture. Garfield in Actor definitely could happen, while Foy in Supporting Actor isn’t out of the question as well. Stay tuned there to see how they do during the precursors.

Starting on Friday, fans of tearjerkers could be in for a real good cry when Breathe opens. It didn’t create waterworks for me, but your mileage may vary. Furthermore, those of you who love Foy on The Crown or Garfield in general might be in for a treat. They are both at the top of their respective games in this one. Inspirational biopics are a dime a dozen during awards season, so something has to separate each one from the pack. In this case, it’s the two main performances. If that appeals to you, this one should do so as well. Give it a shot, if so…

Be sure to check out Breathe, beginning its theatrical run this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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