Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Breathe Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommend
Feel-good romance tackles serious themes, disability rights.
  • PG-13
  • 2017
  • 117 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 4 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Teamwork and perseverance pay off; underlines the value of empathy, as well as unconditional love and support. Also shows how a person with severe disabilities can have a widespread, positive impact on others. The film's stance on assisted suicide may be thorny for some families.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many positive role models and representations. Despite becoming severely disabled, with unconditional love and support, the main character uses his ingenuity to help many people like himself. His wife is strong, capable, patient, and loving. His many friends and helpers are likewise shown at their best: willing to pitch in, able to come up with solutions, and overcoming their own fears.


The closest thing to violence is the blood related to the main character's deteriorating health condition. There's enough blood (in multiple scenes) that it could disturb younger viewers.


A married couple cuddles. It's strongly implied that a woman touches her husband intimately, but nothing graphic is shown. 


"S--tty" used once; also "d--k," "bugger," "bloody hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking by adults in social situations. One or two mildly drunk party guests. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Breathe -- Andy Serkis' directorial debut -- is based on the true story of Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield), who became paralyzed after contracting polio in the late 1950s. Some blood is spilled as part of his medical condition (enough to upset young/particularly sensitive kids), a married couple cuddles (and, it's implied, gets up to some intimate touching), there are a couple of swear words, and adults drink in social situations. But overall this is an uplifting, feel-good true story of someone with severe disabilities who not only survives but perseveres and thrives with the help of his empathetic friends and courageous wife (Claire Foy). It does bring up the topic of assisted suicide, taking a stance that not all viewers will agree with.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBreaden Hoffmaster September 3, 2018

Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy are cinematic gold

I have seen ‘Breathe’ approximately 7 times, and every time I find something different. Andrew Garfield plays Robin Cavendish, a disabled polio patient who ends... Continue reading
Parent of a 10-year-old Written byBrianne H. February 6, 2018

Sweet story

Great story about optimism and the will not just to survive, but to live. Has some content that younger viewers may not understand or may be upset by. I would... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byMusicaloutsider April 9, 2019

Oh My Goodness

Such a good movie with great acting and cinematography, but it made me mad a lot because of how sad it was. It made me cry at the end because it's based on... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old March 10, 2019

Wonderful and Inspirational.

This film tells the true story of Robin Cavendish and his wife Diana. This touching story of rising up and believing in yourself is beautiful. Just beautiful. A... Continue reading

What's the story?

Andy Serkis' directorial debut, BREATHE, tells the true story of Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield), a vital, globetrotting young Englishman struck down by polio in the late 1950s. Despite his resulting paralysis (everything below the neck) and despair, Robin's courageous wife, Diana (Claire Foy), won't let him give up on life. With the help of loving family and friends (including twins played by Tom Hollander and an inventor played by Hugh Bonneville), the Cavendishes become noted innovators and make an extremely positive mark on the world, helping many people in similar situations.

Is it any good?

In his directorial debut, Serkis keeps the focus tightly on the characters -- and reaps the rewards, especially from Foy's superb performance as Diana. She simply won't allow Robin to give up on life. For starters, she helps relieve his depression by doing the then-unthinkable: taking him out of the hospital to live at home. Garfield, Hollander, and Bonneville also impress in their roles. Director Serkis is known, of course, as the world's premier performance-capture artist (Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, the titular ape in King Kong, Caesar in the new Planet of the Apes movies). But just as, all along, his work in that area has really been about acting, here he keeps the cinematic tricks to a minimum in order to let the performances ... breathe. His direction and William Nicholson's script move with admirable economy, conveying the passage of time and important moments smoothly, without paying short shrift to emotional resonances.

And now back to Foy, whose performance is rich, detailed, and alive to every nuance of the movie. She's soulful and reactive without overplaying her hand. When she learns how serious Robin's condition is, you can see layers within her: the proper Englishwoman, staying strong in the moment; the devastated young wife and lover; the mother-to-be realizing how different her future is going to be than what she had thought just moments ago. She's also full of life, finding the love and joy in the family's world, post-diagnosis. Her Diana is strong and extremely capable, brave without being invulnerable. The entire cast is responsible for believably populating the world that Serkis creates, but Foy's Diana is clearly the glue holding it all together. And for those wondering about the film's accuracy: Yes, it's a pretty clean view of a long struggle, but for what it's worth, the Cavendishes' son, Jonathan, is one of the producers. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Breathe portrays someone with severe disabilities. How does it compare to how people with disabilities are typically depicted in movies or on TV? And how does that compare to real life?

  • How do the characters demonstrate teamworkperseverance, and empathy? Why are those important character strengths?

  • Breathe takes place in a time before those with severe disabilities were typically able to get out of their hospital rooms much, if at all. Can you imagine what that would be like? Can you imagine how things would change for someone who was suddenly able to get outside (and keep living)?

  • How accurate do you think the movie is compared to what actually happened? Why might filmmakers choose to tweak the facts in movies that are based on true stories?

  • What did you think of the decision Robin made at the end, and the way his family and friends responded? What do you think you'd have done in his place? In theirs?

Movie details

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