And Now a Word From the FuckAbility™ Research Council on the Film Breathe

FuckAbility™ Research Council’s The DisHon. Hilaria Mirth-Sitwell on Crippling Whilst Posh in Breathe 

Noblesse cripplege, not suicide, is the duty of the upper classes

(Never-on-Thames, England) Mr Serkus’s Breathe is, throughout much of its duration, stoutly British. The central lovers are married to one another and the story refrains from any Lawrencian tendency to evoke the natural world in a throbbing manner, with its gamekeepers and their delicate ways with the lady pigeons. Nor does the film make sickness or injury itself a manifestation of character. Which is not to say that Mr Cavendish’s external journey of affliction is disconnected from his internal moral development. No, it is clear that there can be no overcoming without the hurdle, and our hero finds his way forward by not only embracing Mrs Cavendish but also his sense of duty.  I do admire resolve in the face of adversity and in this respect I say to the film, Well done.

Now, about this business of inspiration: The film is inspirational because it is about the development of inspiring equipment, which is to say, a breathing apparatus. But then there is the ending. One has just seen Mr Cavendish not only triumph over his respiratory insufficiency but help his fellows in suffering. At this moment, he chooses to commit suicide because he wishes to die on his own terms. Ordinarily one must read the lesser ancients, or the wholly American, to find a more blatant have-it-your-way message than the phrase,  on one’s own terms. Is there a more more plaintive call for Nanny than this proud proclamation that one shall have one’s cake and eat it, too? 

One might understand a young man, in the throes of a new invalidism, chucking it all. But a mature husband and father, one who is living a useful life? Such a person should not be such a wet about the dying aspect of it. It’s only death, for God’s sake. It will happen when it happens, like a beating from a prefect, so best get over it and move on.

This is not our way. One might understand a young man, in the throes of a new invalidism, chucking it all. But a mature husband and father, one who is living a useful life? Such a person should not be such a wet about the dying aspect of it. It’s only death, for God’s sake. It will happen when it happens, like a beating from a prefect, so best get over it and move on. Like a good house-party, much of life is conducted on one’s own and only a truly unplanned death will be forgiven if it disrupts your hostess’s seating plan at dinner.

The film does remind one of eternal truths regarding position and income:  that overcoming adversity is inextricably bound to adequate household staffing; and that wealth frees one to get on with the business of inspiring others. Indeed, rank and enfeeblement are one of nature’s most congenial pairings, if only because they engender innumerable grotty job opportunities for the lower classes. One need only observe an Earl attempting to retrieve a voice message recording to understand that crippling ineptitude is the very essence of our nobility. It is not often stated as such, but the upper classes have a duty of noblesse cripplege or, in Non-U terms, crippling whilst posh. Ducking out of the match simply isn’t cricket. Think of the employment lost!

I speak, of course, as one who has endured both the well-born and a degree of personal affliction from girlhood onward. The latter was exacerbated by a disky incident in my ninth year:

The year was 1958. My distant Cavendish cousin, Stoker, had convinced me that sickly children such as myself could achieve health and vigor through exercise — a theory that becomes more ridiculous with every passing year and its accrual of sport-related fatalities. Nevertheless, credulous child, I was roller-skating pell-mell down a little-used corridor at Chatsworth one morning when I hit a particularly treacherous slalom at a high rate of speed.  It was at this most inopportune moment that I witnessed the visiting Oswald Mosely having it off with a looking-glass, and promptly careened wildly into a nest of Vermeers. Sir O, taking no notice of me, merely readjusted himself after the briefest of pauses then sauntered off, no doubt to harass other reflective surfaces. Even at that tender age, I greatly preferred Guinness to fascism and, before I lost consciousness from violent inhalation of Old Master, I thanked Providence for delivering me from another luncheon with the strikingly non-reflective Honks Mitford. I was terribly fortunate to be found only half-dead from our country’s other summer complaint, hypothermia. The Duchess, you will remember, had a background in child-hunting and there was some urgency in closing up the house for the grouse. I recovered slowly here at our family’s seat, Never-on-Thames, with a broken tibia and persistent coughing that produced phlegm of the most exquisite light and exactitude. The bone healed but my breathing has retained a formal realism that is somehow reconciled with its glowing spontaneity. But as with any work of great art, a paradox lies at the heart of my mucus.

Oh, yes, the film Breathe. I think we may concur that is much more agreeable to be confined to one’s sickbed with secretions that are of the Flemish school than to be hacking on an omnibus adorned with advertisements for Watneys and frozen crisps. But there it is: I found Mr Cavendish a fine chap, initially despondent — as a lack of air will make one — but, and this cannot be over-stressed, awfully comfortable in nearly every other way.  I simply could not understand his third act. It recast his earlier pluck as nothing more than a twenty-plus year waffle. It was most off-putting as Mrs Cavendish bore an uncanny resemblance to our Queen and our Sovereign is the very antithesis of this moaning about sparing others and pre-death palaver. I wash my hands of the whole nonsense.


FUCKABILITY™ RESEARCH COUNCIL (FARC) IS A PIECE OF LETTERHEAD HOUSED ON THE TALES FROM THE CRIP WEBSITE. FARC’S MISSION IS TO RAISE AWARENESS OF HOLLYWOOD’S LACK OF AWARENESS THAT MANY DISABLED ADULTS FUCK IN GROUPS OF ONE OR MORE. ALL VIEWS EXPRESSED ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE AND DENIAL.

4 thoughts on “And Now a Word From the FuckAbility™ Research Council on the Film Breathe

  1. Pingback: And Now a Word from the FuckAbility™ Research Council on Who Will Win the Palme d’Visage Award: For Your Condescension | Tales From the Crip

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