Tag: Andrew Garfield

Breathe

breatheThere is a palpable sense of the familiar with Breathe, which tells the true story of polio victim Robin Cavendish.  Comparisons will be made with other films, most obvious being Julian Schnabel’s very depressing (but utterly brilliant) The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but Breathe differs from its ilk, most notably with its cheerful attitude towards life—no small feat for a film that deals in the currency of disease, paralysis, and death. 

Andrew Garfield plays Englishman Robin Cavendish, an amiable chap of the “stiff upper lip” variety, with whom life’s promise has been cruelly snuffed out through contracting polio while working in Africa in the late fifties.  Paralysed from the neck down, Robin is put on a respirator and given months to live. But for the encouragement and support of his long-suffering wife, Diana (played by Claire Foy), and the ingenuity of his friend Teddy (Hugh Bonneville), Robin’s life would’ve come to a literal standstill. Instead, his life becomes one of reinvention and a symbol of endeavour and triumph as he historically pioneers a mobile treatment allowing paralysis patients to live their lives outside the hospital walls.

In his directorial debut, Andy Serkis has shown enough chops to suggest that he’s one to keep an eye on in the future. His attention to the film’s more technical minutia elevates it beyond a mere actorly drama.  That said, he also appears to have got the most out of his quality cast, specifically Garfield who has climbed wholeheartedly into the role of Robin and delivers a convincing performance despite ostensibly only having his face to act with.

Not entirely without fault, the film’s playful moments risk being overly twee. And yes, the provocative “Oscar bait” timing of its release coinciding with a “real-life drama of triumph over adversity” might alert the cynically aware. But for those less pessimistically challenged, Breathe’s unbridled optimism and celebration of life is presented with full conviction and dares you to enter the cinema without a box of tissues.

Read the full review for the NZ Herald here.

Silence

 

silenceI am always wary when a film of notable scope and pedigree such as Silence is largely ignored during awards season. Either I’m reading too much into its lack of critical chatter, or the film is a dud. I was hoping the former.  After all, master director Martin Scorsese has had this film in the oven on slow-cook since the nineties, so my hopes were high.

Silence is based on Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 historical novel about the persecution of Christians in 17th-century Japan. Two Portuguese Jesuit priests, Rodrigues and Garupe (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver), leave for Japan in search of one of their own (Ferreira, played by Liam Neeson) who’s believed to have renounced his faith and “gone native”. In doing so, both have their faith tested as they encounter extreme torment in a land that is “like a swamp” and incapable of adopting the Christian faith. Shūsaku Endō’s story is remarkably similar to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which also received cinematic treatment with Apocalypse Now.  But where Apocalypse Now was a personal film for Ford Coppola due to hardships he encountered while filming, Silence is a personal film to Scorsese because the source material clearly resonates with his own faith.  However, this might’ve clouded his filmic judgement, because like its protagonists, Silence tests your patience.

I really wanted to like this film, but like an unrequited love, I found myself losing interest and giving up the chase. Large chunks were unengaging, slow, and dare I say it … boring.  Putting in extra effort to peel back layers of dubious Portuguese accents and gratuitous melodrama does reward the viewer with glimpses of Scorsese genius; his intentional use of the camera, his interesting treatment of sound — basically, Silence looks and sounds great.  But, that’s slim pickings for a film that promised so much more.

I have never felt this way about a Scorsese film before. So, like the Jesuit priests, I started to doubt my faith in the great director.  Must I apostatise like the film’s Christian subjects? Maybe I was lacking the piety of a true film critic. Or perhaps this was a test and so I should wait for enlightenment. Like any great cinematic journey, the destination only begins to fully reveal itself long after you’ve left the theatre.  So, wait I did … nothing. Waited further … silence.  Sorry Martin.

Rating: 2.5 blessings out of 5

You can see the published review here.