Last night I watched the movie Breathe, directed by Andy Serkis. The movie stars Andrew Garfield (Amazing Spider-Man) and Claire Foy (The Crown).
The movie is based on a true story about Robin Cavendish, a young man who was paralyzed from polio. Not only was he paralyzed, but he required a machine to keep him breathing.
When Robin is first struck down with polio, he desires to die. He couldn’t handle the idea of spending the rest of his life like that. The doctors didn’t give him much time either.
However, his wife Diana refuse to give up on him, even when he tries to reject her and their infant son. Eventually, against the doctors’ orders, Diana moves Robin out of the hospital and into their home. This renews hope for Robin and he begins to enjoy life again.
A friend develops a wheelchair that can include his ventilator and allows Robin to experience a mobility that the doctors’ thought was impossible. Instead of keeping this to himself, they work to share this technology with other disabled people.
There was plenty of good things about the movie. Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy did a fantastic job in their roles. The persistent love of Diana for Robin was inspiring. As someone interested in disabilities, I really appreciated the advocacy that Robin and his friends and family did for others with disabilities. The speech that he makes at a disability conference is just as needed today as it was then.
There were some things I didn’t like. There were some negative portrayals of religion. At one point, the paralyzed Robin spits in the face of a priest. The attempted religious responses to his suffering were disappointing. It may be that they reflect Robin’s actual experience, but there are better faith responses to suffering.
I was also disappointed that Robin’s life came to an end through euthanasia. Euthanasia is a complex issue but it in the movie it was represented simply a noble escape from suffering. It was favourably compared to his escape from the hospital and regaining his mobility. Although the movie does present a positive image of disability, it also presents it as something to escape from.
Having said that, there is plenty in Breathe to make us think and reflect on life.