‘Breathe’

Here’s a film with inspirational subject matter and an impressive pedigree, with Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy starring and legendary motion-capture performer Andy Serkis making his directing debut. Sadly, “Breathe” (⋆⋆½ out of four stars; PG-13 for mature material including bloody medical images) runs out of air long before the final credits. Playing Robin Cavendish, a prosperous English tea broker paralyzed by polio at 28, Garfield is immobile but cheerful for most of the running time as the film dramatizes his next 36 years. As his socialite wife, Diana, Foy shows unexpected, unbending commitment to helping him achieve objectives that doctors in the 1950s thought impossible. Cavendish became the first to leave the confinement of his hospital bed, move home, independently travel on a wheelchair with a custom-made portable ventilator, and go abroad in a specially modified van. Produced by the couple’s son, Jonathan Cavendish, the deeply personal film has the kind of sentimental, soft-focused glow of a beloved family photo. The Boston Marathon bombing film “Stronger” and the Stephen Hawking biofilm “The Theory of Everything” were better for presenting their real-life protagonists as imperfect, difficult survivors. While “Breathe” gets top marks for uplift, it’s underwhelming as drama. (Showing at Edina, White Bear and Willow Creek.)

Colin Covert