Matthew Bunkell, Customer Service Manager, previews this week’s Discover Tuesdays title: Chronic.
Director: Michel Franco.
Starring: Tim Roth, Sarah Sutherland, Nailea Norvind. Mexico/France 2015. 93 mins.
Chronic is the third feature from Mexican director Michel Franco, and his first foray into the English language. Winning the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival, Chronic continues Franco’s deep plunge into the human condition.
David is a care worker. Apart from a few intermittent visits to the gym, that is his entirety: he is a care worker. In a series of beautiful and bare portraits, we see him demonstrate an undeniable devotion to his patients throughout the film. Only very briefly are David and the viewer offered any respite from his patients’ dependency. Not even the families, who seem to turn their backs on their loved ones, can rival the diligence of this stranger. But things begin to head swiftly south when one of the families alerts David’s superiors to accusations of sexual abuse, bringing into question the purpose of his work.
As is familiar from Franco’s previous two features, the pacing is slow. The unblinking lens roots itself solidly, framing its characters and bordering on tableaux vivants – any frame of this film could be isolated and displayed in a gallery, and we would still receive the same intimate emotion as we do from the moving images. Echoing the character of David himself, the camera’s zealous stare is too sincere to be considered voyeuristic, and yet too suspect to be deemed innocuous.
Should comparisons be drawn, Chronic’s weighty tones fall somewhere in the same space as Michael Haneke’s crushingly powerful Amour and, to a lesser extent, Uberto Pasolini’s Still Life. However, where the latter bounces along with a melancholic funk, Franco’s unforgiving narrative arrives warts and all, dragging us into the difficult everyday lives of its subjects. The atmosphere is beautifully upheld by the cast; Tim Roth in particular delivers an understated and complex performance as David.
During its 93-minute runtime Chronic presents David with some of life’s profoundest inevitabilities, exerting a grip that will not let you go – even after the credits have rolled.
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