Intriguing but simultaneously frustrating drama featuring fine work from Tim Roth
Chronic is the kind of subtle, inscrutable drama that requires a great deal of patience from the committed viewer. It may have won writer-director Michel ‘After Lucia’ Franco Best Screenplay at Cannes 2015 but his mannered, poker-faced approach ultimately makes for a film that is as exasperating as it is intriguing.
Tim Roth gives a meticulous, buttoned-down performance as David, a residential nurse who tends to the terminally ill. He is incredibly diligent, dedicated and clearly has the best interests of his patients at heart, often giving them the love and attention that relatives are unwilling or unable to provide. In fact, his job seems to have become his whole world as we are given few details of his private life. His involvement with those he cares for goes above and beyond the call of duty as he extends the role of nurse to that of confidant and trusted friend. Is his behaviour inappropriate? Is his devotion just a little too intense and possessive? There is something of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley about him as he absorbs aspects of his patients’ personalities, or repackages elements of their lives and presents them as his own.
Caught between compassion and creepiness, David is a compelling-enough character and you are invited to speculate as to whether this angel of mercy might be a more sinister figure. Franco does provide hints and clues but much is left to the imagination of the viewer. Sadly, the film’s monotonous pace, decision to forego the use of music and coolly detached manner becomes a tiresome combination even at a relatively trim running time. What’s more, the abrupt, unexpected ending seems designed to catch you unawares, posing yet more questions and providing precious little in the way of answers.
Selected release from Fri 19 Feb.