Daily | Cannes 2015 | Michel Franco’s CHRONIC



“Mexican provocateur Michel Franco is a filmmaker of cool-blooded precision and intelligence,” begins Guy Lodge, writing for Time Out. “Yet filmgoers outside festivals largely haven’t had a chance to see him at his best: After Lucia, a heart-stopping cautionary tale against extreme teen bullying, won a prize at Cannes in 2013, yet was sent straight to DVD in Britain. The presence of Tim Roth in Franco’s English-language, Los Angeles-set follow-up may seem a notional gesture to the mainstream, but compromises are few and far between in this tough-minded character study—in which almost every wrenching facet of palliative care is either enacted or suggested. Life passes without ceremony—as does death, for that matter—through the distantly objective gaze of Franco’s camera. Profound psychic pain accumulates unspoken from one scene to the next.”

“Tim Roth takes the role of David, a homecare nurse for the terminally ill, and it is Roth’s best work for some time,” writes the Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw. “It is clear from the outset that David is excellent at his job: conscientious, diplomatic, thorough, with the kind of compassion that is calmly and professionally focused on the patient, achieving a kind of intimacy that still has boundaries…. But David goes too far. Without ever appearing to lose control, he becomes utterly devoted to each patient, with a quasi-Munchausen tendency to identify with them, subtly but relentlessly shutting the family out of the patient’s life.”

Mike D’Angelo at the Dissolve: “In more skillful hands, this concept might have been arrestingly off-kilter (it seems tailor-made for the young Egoyan; some aspects recall The Adjuster), but Franco can’t leave well enough alone. He makes David way too overtly menacing, having him stalk a young woman for half the movie, only to reveal that his intentions are entirely benign. (Shame on us for assuming otherwise!) He throws in a bathetic backstory that ‘explains’ David’s dedication to his work. And he ends the film on a note so jarring that it plays like a sick joke, which would be fine, were Chronic not otherwise so incredibly dour.”

“Franco opts for a cheap and ironic cop-out,” agrees Barbara Scharres at And David Acacia at the International Cinephile Society: “In a year the Cannes Film Festival has been all but universally roasted for its dubious inclusions in the Official Competition, Michel Franco’s Chronic is handily the worst.”

“Franco approaches discomfitingly intimate material from an objective and virtually documentary-like distance, asking audiences to do the heavy lifting required to arrive at a meaningful emotional response,” writes Variety‘s Peter Debruge. “There is no score here, while the camerawork could hardly be more restrained. According to this critic’s count, there are just 97 shots in the entire film, lasting just under a minute apiece on average, making for a rather taxing viewing experience for those accustomed to movies that tell them what to feel.”

“For a movie that surrenders character details only with great reluctance, Chronic relies on Roth’s strongly stoic yet heartfelt performance,” writes Screen‘s Tim Grierson. The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Rooney agrees: “The cast throughout is unimpeachable in its honesty and absence of vanity, nobody more so than Roth, whose brooding, serious side arguably hasn’t been this compelling since James Gray’s impressive 1994 debut, Little Odessa.”

Adds Nicholas Bell at Ioncinema: “DoP Yves Cape (Holy Motors and a regular with Bruno Dumont) captures muted, claustrophobic interiors in these sterilized lives, breathing for only moments at a time in stretches of nondescript, sunny-side exteriors.”

Updates, 5/25: Writing for the Playlist, Oliver Lyttelton agrees that Chronic has “a stinker of an ending tacked on to a disappointing third act (which is at least lifted up by Bartlett’s performance), and it’s a shame because so much of what went on before was so good: a tender, unsentimental, unexploitative look at an existence that all too many people have, and what it is to be someone who looks after them. For much of the running time, it felt like the most pleasant surprise of the festival, but by the end, Chronic is notable mostly as a step in the right direction for its leading man.”

Meantime, Franco’s won the award for Best Screenplay.

Update, 5/27: “The best thing about this film is how Franco captures a discomfort with death and illness that the friends and family of the sick silently express but that David lacks,” writes Grantland‘s Wesley Morris. “Demise creates a kind of intimacy that fires up his sense of humanity. Roth seems at home in the part’s muted, perverse creepiness.” But “Chronic ends with one of the most insulting shots I’ve ever seen in a movie. At the press conference after the [festival’s closing] show, members of the jury praised different aspects of the film: its restraint (Del Toro), its politics (Gyllenhaal), its precision (Dolan). But the ending, for me, sacrificed each of those qualities in order to convey a bogus cosmic irony to which Haneke has yet to stoop. Franco hadn’t made a statement. He’d made a knockoff: NoMour.”

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