Breathing Lessons, a Hallmark Hall of Fame television special last season, is now available from Republic Home Video. This adaptation of Anne Tyler's 1988 novel stars James Garner, Joanne Woodward, Kathryn Erbe, Eileen Heckart, Paul Winfield, and Joyce Patten. John Erman directs from a screenplay by Robert W. Lenski.
Maggie has been married to Ira for 29 years. They are as different temperamentally as pepper and salt. He's an aloof, uncommunicative man who enjoys playing solitaire. She's a complete extrovert.
Driving from their home in Baltimore to attend the funeral of a friend's husband in Pennsylvania, they stop at a roadside cafe to look at a map. Maggie casually reveals intimate family secrets to a waitress while Ira cringes nearby. Later in the trip, Maggie gets them involved in the affairs of an elderly black man who won't let them pass his car on the road.
Her meddling reaches a pitch point when she insists on stopping for a visit with Fiona, their son Jesse's former wife. A scheme to get the couple back together backfires.
Breathing Lessons offers an engaging anatomy of marriage. Maggie and Ira consistently clash but are stitched together by deep bonds of love and affection. This drama shows that there is no magic formula for a happy marriage. Intimacy must be sustained in the midst of bickering, disappointment, and evergreen problems. Plugging along in a marriage takes the patience of a saint and the courage of a mountain climber. But no one can ever take away or diminish the deep down joy that a couple like Ira and Maggie have fashioned over the long span of time.