The opening night gala film for the LFF2017 is Andy Serkis directorial effort Breathe released through his new production company Imaginarium; also, set to release horror flick The Ritual later this month. Set in the late 50's Breathe, illustrates the life of Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield); a young dashing and newly married man who as fate would have it, becomes infected with polio on a business trip to Kenya. As the infection gets hold, he is rendered paralyzed from the head down, unable to even breathe without a respirator. As the realisation of his situation sinks in, he initially wants to end it all but then taps into his inner tenacity, proceeds to, along with the help of his overly dedicated wife Diana (Claire Foy) and his happy-go-lucky friends, make a go of it. Cavendish manages to defy all medical odds and survives for a further 20 years and with the help of technology transitions from being bed-ridden to moving around in a custom-made wheel-chair (with its own breathing machine) which makes him more mobile, thus enjoying his life more and in doing so, paving the way for improving the living standards of disabled people in society.

It is a rather endearing, uplifting if ultimately sad film, which on occasion does ventures into predictable territory. Noted, this is an overall well-packaged offering, which is executed seamlessly with beautiful imagery and impeccable attention to detail. Garfield steps up to this role and his effort is commendable. The facial mannerisms of the effects of his immobility, the use of his eyes as a mode of communication, his impaired speech; all come across as authentic and highly believable. Foy is equally good if even better as the overly caring spouse; she appears genuinely good natured and kind which shines through, making her instantly likeable. There is an old Hollywood starlet, Grace Kelly aura to her mixed in with a post-war era English rose; conceivably attributed to the historical setting of the film, nevertheless its very befitting.

The film manages to successfully cut itself above the usual Working Title droll, credited to the tragic and very much real subject matter.  Gritty elements such as the day-to-day depiction of people suffering from polio and their reliance on others, the understandable need for permanent escape but also on a lighter note: Cavendish’s frequent candid humour and sparky character. The last half hour is dedicated to Cavendish's eventual demise which tarnishes the saccharine sweetness which could have enveloped the film. However, this is a feel-good movie at the heart of it and so it cannot fully escape the twee elements and predicable soppiness littered throughout; perhaps unavoidable when telling such a story. Despite this I cannot dismiss this film entirely as it is truly very well presented, easy to watch, with superb delivery from its leads, but mostly because the story of the life of Robin Cavendish and his triumph of spirit deserves to be told.

Breathe will be release in the US on the 13th October.