Directed by Michel Fanco. Starring Tim Roth, Bitsie Tulloch, Claire van der Boom, David Dastmalchian, Sarah Sutherland, Tate Ellington, Joe Santos, Michael Cristofer
David (Tim Roth) is a home care nurse who works with terminally ill patients. Almost seamlessly inserting himself into their lives, David steals details of their worlds to tell strangers, and often becomes more relied upon and trusted than the patients’ families.
THE VERDICT: Three years after AFTER LUCIA won the Prize Un Certain Regard at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, director Michel Franco returns to the festival with another carefully observed film.
Tim Roth, who presided over the Un Certain Regard Jury in 2012, stars as David. Roth allows the quiet and still nature of Franco’s filmmaking to infuse the character, making David a powerful presence on screen, but a mystery to both his patients and the audience. The rest of the cast is made up of Bitsie Tulloch, Claire van der Boom, David Dastmalchian, Sarah Sutherland, Tate Ellington, Joe Santos and Michael Cristofer who all orbit David in different ways, and all benefit from Franco’s still manner of filming.
Franco’s film does not have a traditional narrative arc or, some might say, a narrative arc at all; instead focusing on the day to day life of David, and the people he encounters as he cares for them. There is a subplot about David’s own family, but this feels inconsequential and shoehorned in. The film does the ‘day in the life’ aspect of the story well but, as with After Lucia, it seems that Franco had no idea how to end this rambling, meandering but engaging tale, and opting for a highly inappropriate car ex machina ending, which feels disingenuous and contrived.
As director, Franco allows the action to unfold in front of the camera, rather than adjusting camera angles to suit the action, which gives the film a feeling of voyeurism, with a hint of the idea that we are watching true moments from life, the still ones where the emotional action truly happens Franco does not pull any punches when it comes to depicting chronic and often terminal illness either; allowing the audience to see the fragility of the incredibly ill, and characters have their dignity robbed from them as they try to fight to stay alive. That said, almost all of this is undermined by a thoughtless and almost comedic final shot.
In all, CHRONIC is an unflinching examination of illness and those who care for us when we can no longer care for ourselves. Roth is fantastic in the leading role, and ably carries the unflinching gaze of the camera. Shame he is so badly abandoned in the film’s contrived final moments.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Cannes Review - Chronic
Review by Brogen Hayes
  • filmbuff2011

    Winner of the Best Screenplay award at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, Chronic is a rather obtuse drama that leaves a lot unsaid and lets audiences fill in the narrative blanks.

    David (Tim Roth) is an English homecare nurse working in America. He looks after terminally ill patients, bathing them, clothing them, attending to their needs when required day and night. His life beyond his job is kept mostly in the shadows – if anything, his job seems to be his life. As the story progresses, it’s revealed that David has a life though – or at least, he used to. His wife has passed on and he’s trying to reconnect with his daughter Nadia (Sarah Sutherland, Kiefer’s daughter). We follow David’s routine as he looks after a number of patients with varying degrees of illness. He learns more about his patients in order to understand them, by studying their interests like architecture. But a critical decision regarding one particular patient could be a problem…

    Mexican writer-director Michel Franco’s follow-up to After Lucia is a sparse character drama that relies heavily on silences and slowly, carefully spoken dialogue. There’s no musical score, as if Franco felt that underlining his character’s plight with a score would be false and unrealistic – in real life, there’s no orchestra in the background. That extends to the scenes involving David and his patients, which can be a little difficult to watch. Franco is very matter-of-fact about this, not sparing the audience the sight of a patients in their final throes. It’s a brave decision on Franco’s part, analysing David’s caring but detached approach from his patients – he tries not get emotionally involved. However, it does put the audience at a slight remove from David. We never fully get to know him, but the ever-reliable Roth does a fine job at keeping his character grounded. One of the film’s most effective moments simply consists of Roth sitting in a chair and staring at the ground. Just what is going on in that head?

    Chronic is not a film for the impatient. At 93 minutes, it’s not particularly long, but it requires some concentration to understand David’s motivations and his story. This may turn off some people who are used to having answers and full character arcs delivered direct from the Screenwriting 101 class. And then there’s that ending… Just watch out for it. It certainly caught this reviewer unaware, but feels appropriate – and something of a final judgment call. ***