The Cannes Film Festival is a real special and integral part of the movie year. Many of those films shown there to the very lucky few tend to be of a certain quality and allure. The Screenplay award is a deceptively crucial honor, with the likes of a The Ice Storm, The Barbarian Invasions, Mephisto, Leviathan, Henry Fool awarded this prestigious prize. Fine writing, intricate story-lines, depicting family gloom, grief, obsession, a fond appreciation of your past – some mesmerizing works. Having now seen Michel Franco’s Chronic, I am sad to announce my unquestionable disappointment that this was handed the Screenplay prize in 2015 at the awe-inspiring Cannes Film Festival. A curious choice at the time, but an even absurder one now, Chronic with it’s lingering, repetitive pacing, hardly a word spoken from one scene to the next, with little plot development, is a film with few qualities – and the script is most definitely not one of them.
Those qualities are few and far between, but they gladly include a brief, bittersweet chemistry between a male nurse and his elderly patient. When this story-line takes a sharp turn, we fall into a pot hole rather than see out the promise of a dramatic journey. The film gently attempt to jump-start, but never really gets off the ground. And as each scene passes the film loses momentum, so much so by the time the final plot points arrive there is little to care for. Whatever we yearn to salvage from such a dour, sometimes touching tale, is snatched from us in the film’s climax in a way that knocks you so far off the road you barely know what’s hit you.
The true quality of Chronic is Tim Roth. Achingly good from the very moment he enters the frame, hunched and morose, while remaining amiable and warming. At his absolute very best, in the movie as well as career perhaps, when he sits silently, pondering, a deflated man with ample energy to care for others. A distraction as well as a passion, Roth never undermines his character’s foggy melancholy, nor does he allow us to doubt too much the man’s integrity and dedication to the role of care-giver. It is a genuine shame that such a fine performance belongs to a film that is just not worthy of it.