TIFF ’17 Day 5: Breathe, You Disappear

 

Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield in Breathe.

Breathe (UK, 2017. Dir: Andy Serkis): Another one of the many films about physical disabilities in this edition of TIFF, there is nothing intrinsically wrong about Breathe. It’s just that it plays it way too safe and doesn’t break any new ground. One doesn’t have to look further than The Theory of Everything to find the same old beats.

At least Breathe covers the getting-to-know-you portion of the story in the first few minutes. Robin (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network) and Diana (Claire Foy, The Crown) are an adventurous couple who can’t be constrained by walls. Unfortunately, Robin gets polio in Africa and loses all mobility and the capacity to breath on his own.

The once outdoorsy Brit falls into a depression that forces his wife and friends to extreme efforts to give him at least a semblance of a normal life. It’s the beginning of a journey that would lead to the invention of the Cavendish chair, a conception that improves the quality of life of extremely disabled patients to unheard degree.

Andy Serkis’ first directorial effort is traditional to a fault. His sole focus seems to be to move the plot forward, in circumstances the best moments of Breathe take place whenever he takes the foot off the gas. The cinematography is disproportionally superior to the story, not a surprise since Robert Richardson (Scorsese and Tarantino’s go-to guy) is behind the camera. It’s a good movie to take your grandma, but that’s about it. Two and a half dogs. Distribution in Canada: Theatrical.

You Disappear (Denmark/Sweden, 2017. Dir: Peter Schønau Fog): The embodiment of the ‘brainy’ movie, You Disappear uses procedural tropes to explore the eternal conflict of free will versus determinism.

The film uses a fragmented timeline to tell the story of the Hallings, a marriage enduring one crisis after another. First Frederik (Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Angels & Demons) is diagnosed with a brain tumor, which may or may not be affecting his behavior. Not much later, he is accused of embezzlement. His defense argues temporary insanity due to impulse control disorder, but the condition is extremely difficult to prove.

The narrator in You Disappear is Frederik’s wife, Mia (Trine Dyrholm, The Commune), often the victim of Frederick’s misbehavior. Her voiceover focuses on the undependability of the human brain (reality vs. perception), and it’s as dense as fascinating. The kicker is that Mia herself may not be the most reliable of witnesses.

The obvious intelligence that went into the script also creates certain distance between the film and the viewer. In spite of the cast’s efforts to humanize the proceedings, You Disappear remains a high density enterprise. A rewarding one though. Three dogs. Distribution in Canada: TBD.

 

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.