Breathe Blu-ray Review
Me After Polio
Andy Serkis delivers a competent and thoughtful directorial debut which, in the vein of The Theory of Everything, looks at the true story of a pioneering polio survivor.The touching story of Robin Cavendish's courageous lifelong struggle with polio, overcoming sizable odds to become one of the first people paralysed by the virus to ever escape the confines of a hospital iron lung, Breathe is both heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure. With impressive central performances from Andrew Garfield (adding another interesting, powerful role to his post-Amazing Spider-Man resume after the likes of Silence and Hacksaw Ridge) and The Crown's Claire Foy, the film suitably captures the unbelievable exploits of this pioneer for the disabled.A personal project commissioned by Cavendish's son Jonathan, a film producer who runs a production company with actor Andy Serkis (most famous for his mo-cap work as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and Caesar in the Apes movies), this also marks Serkis' directorial debut, electing to frame the film in a rather broad 2.76:1 aspect ratio and delivering a solid piece of touching but not cloyingly sentimental work that champions natural charm, genuine emotional content and warm humour, giving Cavendish a larger-than-the-confines-of-his-life persona and offering up a serving of inspiration to us all.
Picture QualityBreathe comes to UK Blu-ray complete with a very good 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's rather surprisingly broad and unquestionably rare aspect ratio of 2.76:1 widescreen. It's an unusual style which doesn't necessarily suit the material - notwithstanding some of the more exotic settings, it's quite an intimate affair - but does offer it some manner of visual distinction, and certainly never distracts from your enjoyment, perhaps even going some way to further convince you of the period setting.
A very good video presentation
Detail remains strong and largely impressive throughout, naturally progressing through the decades with keen observation of changing wrinkles and ageing visages, picking up not only on skin tones and textures but clothing weaves and finer nuances like even the slight scar of the longer wound caused by the tracheotomy. There's a fine layer of grain that gives the film yet further texture and never becomes unstable, or even particularly noticeable, merely lending it further form and shape. The colour scheme doesn't exactly pop with vibrancy other than perhaps through the natural delights of lush green fields, blue skies or exotic locales - from a safari to a trip to Spain. Black levels are strong and shadow detail decent, rounding out a very good video presentation that's hardly reference but still does a reasonably impressive job with the material.
Sound QualityA rich aural accompaniment
Breathe comes complete with a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack which does a very good job providing rich aural accompaniment to the proceedings, promoting dialogue clearly and coherently throughout, notwithstanding the limitations of the lead character's ability to speak properly. Effects are obviously almost entirely atmospheric and nuanced, with nothing particularly bombastic, as is only consummate to the material, however it's still finely tuned, allowing for every tiny flourish to become a part of the grander whole. The slow percussive breathing of Cavendish's apparatus becomes one with the soundtrack, whilst car noises, bustling garden parties, and hospital equipment all offers up some breadth to the admittedly limited aural material. A strong, unobtrusive but suitably effective score gives the surrounds more to do and makes for a well-engineered accompaniment and enhancement to the proceedings. Again solid, perhaps not reference, but still very nice work.
ExtrasThe UK Blu-ray release of Breathe affords it a suitably memorable and personally informative Audio Commentary from Cavendish's own son, the producer Jonathan Cavendish, who accompanies Director Andy Serkis as they talk through this labour of love, which is obviously largely founded upon Jonathan's own real memories of his father. A quartet of Featurettes provide welcome companion pieces, including a Behind the Scenes overview as well as Choosing Life - The True Story, which looks behind the movie at the true events; Diana & Robin's Love Story, which looks at the pivotal and enduring romance between the two; and Robin's Legacy, which looks at advances in the treatment of the disabled which largely stemmed from Cavendish's life.
Blu-ray VerdictBreathe is both heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure
The UK Blu-ray release of Breathe affords it very good video and audio, as well as a great selection of surprisingly personal extra features, further highlighting the significance of this project. Fans of The Theory of Everything, and Me Before You (although, ironically, this fictional story is - in many respects - the antethesis of Breathe's story about choosing life) should consider this a good watch that's well acted and impossible not to be moved by. Andy Serkis may not have made a full bells and whistles directorial debut which will be celebrated in any big way, but it's a quiet and suitably respectful tribute to an unsung hero.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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