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Reel Britannia

Roslyn Hull

Last night I went to the opening film of the 2017 British Film Festival.

I am still a little emotionally shaky. Breathe, starring Andrew Garfield and the wonderful Claire Foy, demonstrates that a stiff upper lip doesn’t signify a lack of emotion. It can mean there is so much emotion that the lip is the only thing holding the whole house of cards in place.

It is the story of Robin Cavendish, struck down by polio as an adult, paralysed and confined to a hospital bed with a machine breathing for him. His initial despair is so telling because he can do little to show it. That he didn’t die in the first few months is due to the attitude of his wife Diana. Together they made their life remarkable.

Produced by their real-life son, Jonathon, and directed by the best actor to never get an Oscar (because his performances are most often motion capture) Andy Serkis, it shocked me. Not because of what happened but because of the way humans reliant on machines were so confined in our so very recent past.

The love the two main characters have for each other is obvious, as is the love all their friends and family have for them (Tom Hollander is a stand out as both of Diana’s twin brothers). The way life is gotten on with, boundaries are pushed aside and unknown frontiers ever so politely smashed to bits makes for a wonderful story.


Damn the writer (William Nicolson) for his style of storytelling. He can give a mundane sentence such impact that the viewer is left in despair. I am still not over the devastation of Anthony Hopkins saying ‘Me too’ at the end of Shadowlands, also written by Nicholson.

Shaking off my sadness like a good British gel I should mention some of the other films – I know there will be many Canberra women who want to see the bio on Manolo Blahnik but I want to relive my youth and see England is Mine, about Morrissey before The Smiths.

There will be further emotional distress for anyone who sees Goodbye Christopher Robin but for sheer strangeness and not-what-we-think-of-as-Brit how about a fully punk sci-fi rave musical developed from a short story by Neil Gaiman and starring Nicole Kidman? How to Talk to Girls at Parties reads like it will be enormous fun.

And finally, if like me, you can’t wait to see if Kenneth Branagh can do justice to the little grey cells of Hercule Poirot, the retrospective section of the festival this year is devoted to Agatha Christie … and one or two other great thrillers.

The British Film Festival is showing at Palace Electric until 15 November. Check out the full program here.

Roslyn saw Breathe as a guest of Palace Electric Cinemas.


Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand. More about the Author

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