Andy Serkis steps behind the camera and confidently takes up the Directors chores to bring us the real life story of Robin and Diana Cavendish. When in Africa Robin, a full of life tea merchant, and his new bride Diana, seem to have it all with a new baby on the way. Then Robin is stricken with Polio leaving him paralysed from the neck down and having to use a respirator to breathe for him.
When you hear that a well known actor is stepping behind the camera to become a director, well at least I do this, you roll your eyes so far back in your head that it hurts and you have to call someone to come and help. When I heard that Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes star Andy Serkis was doing this they started to roll. I was so wrong. My eyes were fixed on the screen almost instantly as this story of hope and the power of the human spirit and love won me over quite quickly.
Andrew Garfield gives the performance of his career, and while it may not be up there with Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, it’s strong enough to at least warrant some attention when it comes up to the award season. He plays Robin, the vibrant and funny young man who falls for Diana, played by Claire Foy. Now I don’t watch The Crown but my partner does, so this is the first time that I’ve seen Ms. Foy. She is a powerful performer and playing the real life character of Diana gives her a full range to spark to life. Diana faces down the doubt that Robin develops as the Polio drastically changes their lives. She will not accept his demands to be allowed to die, but the script is so beautifully written that you don’t know how things are going to go, and all the players seem to respond to the Directors vision.
The story develops when Robin wants to leave the hospital in what all the experts say is a suicidal move, but you understand that for Robin he’s not going to die in a hospital, he doesn’t care how long he lives as long as it’s not in the hospital. For Diana it’s about showing that Robin can have a true life with this disease. They gather their friends who have all the hope to sustain them, and some that have mechanical knowledge to make their lives easier, with great performances from Tom Hollander and Hugh Bonneville. There are so many famous English stars that lend themselves to this story including Stephen Mangan, Diana Rig, and Ed Speleers. But what holds the film together, and how he manages to capture the different scenery with a touch of an old hand, is Director Andy Serkis.
If every fledgling Director had the confidence that Serkis shows here then we’d have a lot better time in the cinema. His ability to inspire his cast, while capturing the right framing to make the drama come alive, is just inspiring. The story of Robin and Diana takes you through every emotion and it’s a roller coaster ride that I was not expecting. I thought this was going to be a light drama with a first time director doing a good job. What I got was a heartbreaking and in the same breath inspiring story, and a man who in front of the camera has been fantastic, but his true talents may lay behind in the Directors chair.
Don’t write this film off because you may not think it’s the thing for you. Stop yourself from walking by this film and just Breathe it in.
Director: Andy Serkis
Writer: William Nicholson (screenplay)
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Hugh Bonneville & MORE See full cast & crew