Having learnt a thing or two alongside Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings, Andy Serkis delivers in his directorial debut with this heartwarming true story.
It is a film cast from the same mould as The Imitation Game, documenting the success of a pioneering individual against all odds. In this case it’s an upper class chap named Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) who, after falling in love with the alluring Diana Blacker (Claire Foy), tragically contracts polio and is paralysed from the neck down.
But a life consigned to the hospital bed is no viable option: ‘I don’t want to just survive, I want to truly live’, and so begins a quest of liberation and revolution.
The establishing shots with which the film opens not only offer a beautiful sweeping view of the British countryside, but are representative of Robin’s sense of liberty as he whizzes along in his car below. The loss of this freedom is reflected in the closer, static frames that come to dominate as his situation deteriorates.
Andrew Garfield is excellent; providing an emotional and expressive performance with just the use of his face, while also nailing the self-reflective humour that makes Robin so endearing. Witty lines such as ‘I was wondering what it’s like to get drunk given I am legless already’ are most heartening.
The love that he and Diana share is the anchor for both characters. Overcoming Robin’s condition becomes another adventure, and they come to relish big risks for even greater rewards. Serkis does well not to paint Diana as a saint-like character; she does not stay with Robin out of a sense of guilt or obligation; she does so because her devotion is so entrenched and so human.
The film is quite predictable, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s a moving and rewarding piece of cinema that is a strong start for Serkis’ directorial career.