Jonas Salk scored a significant victory in the battle against polio when he developed the first vaccine to prevent the deadly disease in the 1950s. But World Polio Day, which is being observed today (Oct. 24), provides a potent reminder that the virus is not entirely eradicated. For a depiction of the personal damage wrought by polio, look no further than Breathe, the new biographical drama from director Andy Serkis. Based on the life story of Robin Cavendish (played by Andrew Garfield) — who contracted the disease in 1958 at age 28 — Breathe dramatizes the personal and psychological toll that polio took on Cavendish’s life, while also highlighting the bravery with which he and his wife, Diana (Claire Foy), faced their difficult circumstances.
That bravery is on display in this clip from the film, premiering exclusively on Yahoo Entertainment (watch it above). Bedridden and paralyzed from the neck down since polio ravaged his body, Robin is nevertheless capable of cracking a smile, in large part because he and Diana insisted on leaving the sterility of the hospital for the comforts of home. In these surroundings, he’s able to kid about the noises he makes due to to his breathing apparatus. “I was only able to express myself through my face and eyes,” Garfield told us at the Toronto International Film Festival about the preparation required to play Cavendish. “Andy wanted to get inside Robin’s experience and honor that limitation. All of my energy went to the part of my body that could express something.”
Breathe is currently playing in theaters.
Watch Andrew Garfield explain how he pulled off his stunning transformation in Breathe:
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