Directed by Michel Franco
David is a nurse who works with terminally ill patients. Dedicated to his profession, he develops strong relationships people he cares for. But outside of work, it's a different story altogether.
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★★★★ review by Steven Sheehan on Letterboxd
Michel Franco's camera is in no two minds about what he wants to reveal, challenging you to contemplate your own mortality, how far you have travelled and the unknown yet to come. Chronic is a film that confronts the anticlimax of our passing, the often undignified way our bodies fail us in the end and examines the particular mindset no doubt needed to become a private carer.
For much of the film it questions David's (Tim Roth) motivation for undertaking such a gruelling line of work. He often goes above the call of duty, working double shifts and taking up his own time to be with his patients. It is here you begin to understand the unique bond created between a nurse and a terminally ill patient, the months spent together intimately close and co-dependent, while a lifetime spent with family becomes more distanced due to an inability to help, to cope, or sometimes even to care.
David neutrally keeps to himself, always mysteriously calm and in service to those facing up to their final days. Not a facial or vocal tone falls out of place. But there is something not quite right, as assumed in the very first shot and slowly we begin to unravel why that may be. Our uncertainty grows further as he absorbs particular professional or personal traits of his patients, crossing over into uncomfortable waters. Roth is superb and I mean really superb, with one of his best performances in a very long time. Which is saying something given his consistency. Even when you can't discover who he is underneath the actions, he doesn't allow your suspicions to fully get the better of you.
Franco's distilled, clinical like approach opens up long takes with no place to hide. Rooms become claustrophobic as naked bodies are washed down, blood, sweat and tears wiped away inside the static frame, seemingly cold and unemotional but affecting you in a completely opposite manner. Not much is learnt about David through his conversations, instead the shot composition lays out the questions for us to come to our own conclusions.
A big problem for many, which I experienced myself, will be the ending. In the moment it feels misjudged and out of line with the tone so firmly set in place for the previous 90 minutes. No doubt it was done intentionally, so while you may feel cheated, it deserves some time to digest and reconsider, given the quality of the film up until that point. Hopefully it won't detract from a carefully made and compelling character study that looks at death and those caught in its throws, in an unflinching and unique way.
★★★★ review by Billy Langsworthy on Letterboxd
A tough watch, but a deeply engaging one too.
It doesn't have the regular gut punches of Franco's impressive After Lucia, but it gets under the skin and stays there.
★★★½ review by DaisyBell on Letterboxd
Chronic is a cold, languid, and meditative look on the very real and imminent nature of death, and how it impacts peoples' lives. From the very opening shot to the very last, the film engages the viewer not in an extravagent and approachable way, but in a reserved and impersonal fashion, keeping the viewer at an emotion and tangible distance from the main character and the people he surrounds himself around. Despite David's quiet and nuanced malevolence, one truly connects to him, albeit in some sort of calming perturbation. As can be imagined, David is a very conflicting character: expressing scarcely any emotion, yet somehow garnering a lot of admiration and respect from both the patients and the viewer. Tim Roth's performance of him truly sells the whole thing, perfectly representing David as a sincere and authentic character.
The ellipses in the film proves to accomplish a significant amount within Chronic—not only on a thematic level, but also on an emotional one. The film's long languid shots are swiftly cut away from to an entirely different moment along the narrative timelines, forming an unspoken gap of time and plot which leaves the viewer uneasy and disturbed. It's structurally choppy, which is really felt by the viewer, especially after a very long static take is quickly cut away to a completely different time and place. It works a lot on an emotionally level—especially in helping to viewer relate to David's condition.
The narrative motifs too also add a lot to the overall impact of Chronic, as it sets the pace for the film subconsciously, so that preconceptions for the future may be smashed and then rebuilt back up again. From the heartless and cold shower scenes, to the brief and progression-less exercise cutaways—all these motifs lend to the overall impact and design of the film.
Chronic was a pretty good film—the rating's rather arbitrary this time around, as I had nothing much wrong with it, except that it wasn't anything that I loved or adored. Some people may dislike the ending, but I think it perfectly fits within the film itself. All in all, Chronic was a pretty good film.
★★★★ review by olivia on Letterboxd
tim roth is a god. this movie is slow and sad, so if youre into that and tim roth you should check it out
★★★★ review by Brian Koukol on Letterboxd
Living on the receiving end of the sort of care portrayed in this film for the majority of my life, I don't seem to have experienced this film the same way that many others have. I didn't perceive Tim Roth's character as creepy or ambiguous at all, but rather chock-full of empathy. In any interview with a possible caregiver, my first question would be: "Will you watch porn with me or otherwise act as my arms in order to allow me to do something morally bankrupt without judgment or complaint?" If yes, then you're hired!
I appreciate the relatively honest depiction of both debilitation and the codependent relationship that forms between giver and taker portrayed here. I also appreciate the amount of work required by me to put the pieces of this particular story together. What I don't appreciate, however, is the lazy, convenient ending. I see what writer/director Michel Franco was trying to convey with it, but it simply did not work for me. It didn't quite ruin the powerful film that came before it, but it came damn close.
Despite my issues with its conclusion, however, I can't recommend this film enough.
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