People with disabilities have faced discrimination and barriers in society that make them feel like outsiders. Because so many of them are "invisible," they have not been afforded equal rights and dignity. But that situation is changing.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in 2006 and entered into force in 2008, brought about a paradigm shift from traditional charity-oriented, medical-based approaches to disability to one based on human rights. This important change celebrates diversity and the empowerment of the individual. Breathe is about a polio patient who fought for these rights years earlier.
During the 1950s Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) is a dashing young man who loves his sports car and the game of cricket. When he sees Diana Blacker (Claire Foy) at a cricket match, it is love at first sight for both of them. After marrying, he takes her to Kenya because she wants to see what his work as a tea broker is all about.
Then one day, Robin collapses and is diagnosed with polio. He is paralyzed from the neck down. Diana is told that her young husband only has a few months to live. She decides to accept his dark moods and to demonstrate in each and every way she can the love that bonds them together.
Back in England, Robin is sent to a polio ward where he and other patients are confined to their beds hooked up to respirators. When Robin begs her to get him out of there, Diana and his friends come up with a new plan.
Despite the protestations of the head of the hospital who states that he won't live more than two weeks in the outside world, they take him to a country home. The move works wonders as Robin savors the beauty and wonders of nature, the pleasures of quality time with his son, and the constant support of a large circle of friends.
In his spirited debut as a director, Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes) shows great respect and empathy for the heroics of Robin and Diana as they struggle with the many dire challenges which face them. Claire Foy, who played the Queen in The Crown, gives a sturdy performance as Diana. Hugh Bonneville makes the most of his time on the screen as Teddy Hall, a creative scientist who gives Robin a new lease on life by designing a wheelchair with a battery powered respirator. Now he can go outside and even travel. Tom Hollander plays Diana's twin brothers who provide this sobering biodrama with its moments of humor.
Andrew Garfield conveys Robin's many moods, from despair in the hospital to delight in his life with family and friends. His finest moment comes when he travels to Germany to tour their modern facilities where polio patients, confined inside tanks, are stacked in rows. Later speaking at a convention for those who work with the disabled, Robin declares these arrangements to be little more than prisons. By word, example, and enthusiasm, he makes a strong case for freedom and dignity for people with disabilities.