Chronic

 

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This stylish drama invites us to ponder the character and motivation of its central figure marvellously portrayed by Tim Roth.

 

This very assured film by a writer/director unknown to me, Michel Franco, may be a co-production between France and Mexico but it is set in America and is an English language work. All the same the film that it reminds me of is the 2002 production by the Dardennes brother, The Son (Le Fils). In that film we followed the routines of a carpenter and instructor who appeared to be obsessed by a much younger pupil and, not knowing his motives, we asked ourselves what the truth about him was and pondered on how sinister it might be. Here much the same applies to Chronic’s central character, David, a carer played by Tim Roth whose performance is outstanding.
   
At the start David is established as a loner who looks after individuals who are close to death. We see him giving a shower to an elderly naked woman, Sarah, but we also see him driving a car as he follows another vehicle belonging to a young female. Ahead of that it has been established that on his computer he seeks images of a young woman named Nadia. He appears genuinely attentive to Sarah, but when she dies he won’t talk about her to her niece and in a bar he claims to be a widower who had been married to somebody named Sarah. And so it goes on, with limited dialogue but with details that sometimes suggest sincere concern but at other times seem weird (when David takes on another elderly patient who had been an architect David starts to make claims about being an architect himself).
 

Chronic

  

Franco, who has edited his own film, is a precise filmmaker: the compositions are carefully considered, music is never overused and the colour photography by the experienced Yves Cape is chrystaline. Roth, also credited as an executive producer, is key to the film, but the supporting cast is distinguished, not least Robin Bartlett as another of David’s patients. Plot developments are better not disclosed, but it can be said that this is a consciously downbeat film that in various ways could be seen as being at heart a memento mori. As such it is unsentimental, unflinching and always effective, even if it lacks any clear-cut statement that might have led one to call it a masterpiece. The ending, handled with absolute confidence, is stunning.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Tim Roth, Bitsie Tulloch, David Dastmalchian, Maribeth Monroe, Robin Bartlett, Sarah Sutherland, Tate Ellington, Joe Santos, Rachel Pickup, Michael Cristofer.

 

Dir and Screenplay Michel Franco, Pro Michel Franco, Gina Kwon, Gabriel Ripstein and Moisés Zonana, Ph Yves Cape, Pro Des Matt Luem, Ed Julio Perez IV, Costumes Diaz.

 

Stromboli Films/Vamonos Films-Curzon Artificial Eye.
92 mins. Mexico/France. 2015. Rel: 19 February 2016. Cert. 15.