Tag Archives: Andrew Garfield

BREATHE

“Garfield and Foy understandably steal the show demonstrating a solid and genuine on-screen chemistry… “

Wayward Wolf.

Considering the subject matter at hand, Andy Serkis’ directorial debut is actually something of an up-beat affair.

Set in the late 1950’s and based upon a true story, Breathe, tells the tale of newlyweds Robin and Diana Cavendish (Andrew Garfield and Clare Foy), whose active and adventurous lifestyle is suddenly turned on its head when Robin contracts Polio, leaving him paralysed from the neck down.

With Diana pregnant the timing could not have been any worse, but, with an impressively large and loyal network of well-to-do friends and family, they can at least call upon their support to help them navigate their way through what will prove to be a most remarkable life together.

Whilst revolving unavoidably around the catastrophic aftermath of such a terrible illness, Breathe is in essence a love story whose multitude of ups and downs are therefore somewhat exaggerated owing to the extreme circumstances in which the couple find themselves as they struggle to adapt.

“I want to truly live,” opines the resolutely optimistic Robin, having overcome an initial bout of depression. Easier said than done considering that his paralysis would effectively have been a life sentence back in the mid-1900’s, not only rendering a patient completely immobile, but confined to the four walls of a hospital ward on life support for the rest of a usually extremely shortened life. If anything, Robin’s hospital environment in England does at least represent some sort of quality of life when compared with the scenes of on-going cutting edge patient care witnessed by the couple on a later visit to a clinic facility in Germany. Rows of patients entombed in clinically stacked iron lungs in a windowless laboratory is a genuinely terrifying site.

Perhaps this immobilised fate would have been too much for Robin to bear had he not been married to Diana, a young lady who proves unequivocally that behind every great man, there really is a truly great woman. Holding their newborn child in her arms, she will not entertain Robin’s initial pleas to be allowed to die, instructing him instead to live.

But it’s clear that being left to whither away in a hospital is no way to exist, and breaking all regulations, not to mention flying in the face of the accepted medical advice and logic of the times, the couple choose to relocate Robin to their new home in the country. Here, he will at least be in a home environment. This incredibly bold move was without parallel in the history of global Polio-related aftercare, but unsurprisingly, fraught with danger.

Serkis’ film adopts a directorial style that swiftly and neatly brushes over the salient points of this tale with little time spent dwelling on what is perhaps perceived to be unnecessary or overly sentimental. One can almost make parallels between this brisk no-nonsense directorial style and the rather stiff-upper-lip attitude and all-round Englishness of the film’s cast.

Almost in contradiction to this, however, Nitin Sawhney’s omnipresent luscious and syrupy score at times positively wallows in the sentimentality of it all, lending the piece a suitably emotional glow.

Decent performances are in evidence across the board. Garfield and Foy understandably steal the show demonstrating a solid and genuine on-screen chemistry, whereas the supporting cast, as good as they may well be, are never more than peripheral to events, and struggle therefore to make any sort of long-lasting impression on the memory.

Breathe is an undeniably poignant film, and though it often treads that precarious line between being emotionally effective and cloyingly mawkish, Serkis’ purposeful direction ensures that it strikes just about the right balance to deliver effectively this sweet and inspiring story of love, patience and devotion between two indefatigable spirits.

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FILM REVIEW: Silence

Towards the end of Martin Scorcese’s pious dedication to the apostate Catholic priests of seventeenth century Japan, Liam Neeson’s character, Ferreira, is called upon by the Japanese inquisitors to engage in dialogue with Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield), the very last of the Catholic representatives – now captured – to attempt to track down and ‘rescue’ Ferreira from his Japanese subjugators. Only, Father Ferreira has long since renounced his faith and has by now fully integrated himself into traditional Japanese beliefs and culture.

Ferreira uses the fact that nothing is able to take root in Japan – owing to the country’s aqueous environment, and the tendency for plants to simply rot away – as a metaphor for the country’s people being unable to fully grasp and appreciate the ‘truth’ of the Catholic religion. Pointing to the sun, he explains to Rodrigues that no matter how good and holy had been the intentions of the missionaries, those that had been ‘converted’ by their religious teachings had never really understood fully the true meaning of the scriptures. Theirs was a very literal translation. For them, the sun of God, was not one that rose miraculously after three days to absolve their sins, but one that did so every morning, in the very sky above them.

In effect, the missionaries had been wasting their time, and the thousands of Japan’s ‘saved’ souls were not in fact ‘saved’ at all.

Or so he insinuated.

Whether these were the words of a brow-beaten slave of an intolerant Japanese society, fearful of aggravating his masters, or the knowledgable insight of a now more enlightened soul who had been party to both sides of the reasoning, only he would have known. Regardless, his conclusions shine a light on perhaps the true historic origins of rigid religious dogma, and threaten to undermine their staunch, unalterable, fiercely-guarded ideals and values by reducing them to one simple premise; a premise that man perhaps hijacked for his own gain and controlling purposes, somewhere down the line.

Scorcese was allegedly himself set for the priesthood until the film-making life proved too alluring, and it’s clear that Silence, whilst maybe a little self-indulgent, is the work of a man with great respect for the church and its core values, and at two hours and forty minutes long, he is able to explore the subject matter in some depth in this considered and thoughtful piece.

But what of the film itself? The narrative of Silence contains many parallels with the story of Jesus, with Rodrigues (and to a lesser extent, his colleague, Garupe – Adam Driver), tested considerably by the Japanese as to the true strength of their own unwavering faith, whilst the potential treachery of the weak and confused ‘Judas’ character, Kichijiro (Yôsuke Kubozuka), is omnipresent throughout.

Of course, whether one is empathetic with the plight of Rodrigues and Garupe depends greatly upon how the somewhat arrogant, invasive exploits of the Catholic church are perceived. Certainly, from Scorcese’s tale, there can be no doubting that Rodrigues and Garupe’s intentions are wholly heart-felt and honourable, but Silence is not a conventional story of good against bad, but asks far deeper questions pertaining to whether it is right to impose another’s will upon others, and at what point it becomes morally wrong to do so, when to do so is to endanger the lives of others.

Silence’s pace is slow but not laboured, leaving ample space in which the viewer has time to reflect upon the many moral conundrums that Scorcese poses throughout the piece. Garfield puts in a weighty, sincere performance, whilst Adam Driver, and his atypical facial anatomy, is appropriately well cast – if rather underused – as his priestly-colleague, Garupe.

Harrowing, yet understated scenes of torture are occasional reminders of the consequences of following forbidden religious practices in a fiercely anti-Catholic land, and these combined with the atmospheric, evocative overcast scenes of wild and misty Japanese coast lines, lend Silence an eery yet visually beautiful quality.

Silence is a well-crafted piece of cinema without doubt, and clearly a piece close to Scorcese’s heart. Thankfully it’s also a film not making any obvious, cheap attempts to scoop accolades or vying for mass attention (excuse the pun), during this year’s Oscars season.

Watching it brought to mind Tim Robbins’ 1995 piece, Dead Man Walking, in which a convicted murderer on death row finds salvation through befriending a nun, whilst awaiting his execution. I recall being suitably moved by his plight and relieved at the peace and faith that he ultimately found through God.

Silence evoked no such emotions in me.

I suspect that a twenty-two year period having elapsed since then in which my own personal ‘truth’ has veered considerably from any such vague religious leanings, may well have played a large part in that, rather than it being any sort of slight on Scorcese’s film, which may be one of subjective content, but is nonetheless impressive and thought-provoking.

Devout though never ‘preachy,’ Silence will, unsurprisingly, split its audience into those that want to and those that are simply unable to fully engage with it, no matter how they try.