After The Amazing Spider-Man ended, Andrew Garfield has gone on to do five more movies. Four of these movies have been released, and of those four, two of them will be discussed in this post. Because of the subject matters and impact of Hacksaw Ridge and Silence, they will be getting their own posts. But in those, I will discuss the films as a whole and look past just Garfield’s performances. That means, today I will be looking at 99 Homes and Breathe, both of which featured Garfield as the lead actor.
99 Homes (2014)
This is a movie where Garfield both goes against type and plays within his strengths at the same time. He plays a single father who lives with his young son and his mother. The small family gets evicted from their home and Garfield’s character, Dennis, has to find work so he has the means to put them into a new home.
At first, this role seems kind of random for Garfield when taking into consideration everything else he’s done. On the surface, it just seems like a story of a guy working to get his house back. But when you look more deeply, you see that it’s a story about what a person will do for those closest to him and the moral struggle that comes along with that. It is also a commentary on the American class and economic systems. But I think the emotionally driven aspects is what attracted Garfield to the role.
Dennis begins to work for the man who evicted him and this entails a good deal of lying, stealing, and cheating. You can see the struggles that he goes through when doing these things. He knows that what he is doing is wrong, but he does them anyway because he knows that what is at the end of the road is getting his home back. So it begs the question, do the ends justify the means? By the end of the movie, it gives a pretty clear answer that, no, the ends don’t always justify the means. Dennis ends up paying for his criminal acts by being arrested at the end of the movie. His mother and son had already moved out because of his sketchy dealings and he was all alone. The movie is clearly sending this message of what is okay to do and what isn’t.
Garfield is exceptional, as usual. This is the most mature role he’d taken up to this point, as he was a father and the breadwinner. He even has a beard! His emotional scenes also shine through well. The role reminded me the most of his role in The Social Network because of the way he is almost a one man army who has to emote a good deal of hopelessness and raw pain. But the difference here is that he doesn’t have to go through it alone, as he has his family. And the theme of family is one that carries over into the next movie I’m going to discuss.
Breathe is Garfield’s first movie where a love story is the main focus and driving force behind much of what his character does. It tells the true story of Robin Cavendish, who was an adventurous and athletic man whose life was turned upside down when he contracted polio, was paralyzed from the neck down, and needed a ventilator for the rest of his life.
I may be beating a dead horse at this point, but this was a theme-driven role choice for Garfield, again. He said in an interview that this movie is about the things in life that we take for granted. Once I saw that interview, I couldn’t help but see that theme come out in the movie.
This was a man in Robin Cavendish who had it all. He was in love with a woman just like him and he was able to do all the adventurous things that he wanted to do. But all of that was taken away from him and he needed to learn the value of his life when he wasn’t out doing all of this stuff that he had grown so accustomed to doing. After years of battling depression because of all of this, he was able to do the best that he could with the situation that he was placed in. After losing his faith in a God, he was able to regain some of it. But instead, his faith was in the form of a hope in the world.
Unfortunately, this tale rings fairly hollow in the end. But the themes still persist and the acting is still superb. Garfield brings his A game when it comes to being a man who is stuck in a bed and a wheelchair for his entire life. He shows a state of pure euphoria for life before contracting the illness, then a dark state of depression and sadness, and finally a hopeful spirit once he and his family find a way for him to go out and do all of the things that he wanted to do.
This was a film with faith-based themes that came just a year after Hacksaw Ridge and Silence. It’s indicative of the kinds of roles that Garfield is interested in and the kinds of themes that he is interested in exploring and bringing to the attention of audiences all around the world.