Chronic is a drama written and directed by Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco. The film was selected to compete for the Palme D’Or at Cannes this year, but instead won the award for Best Screenplay. It was the 3rd nomination for Franco, after his Spanish Después de Lucía in 2012 and Daniel y Ana in 2009. Chronic premiered at Cannes on May 22nd.
In the film, Tim Roth plays David, who is the protagonist and the antagonist at the same time. David makes life hard for himself; we follow him as a hospice nurse for patients with – guess what – chronic diseases who are terminally ill. We first witness him taking care of the HIV patient Sarah (Rachel Pickup).
Pickup, who performs the role of Sarah in the most realistic way possible, deserves applause. Her body is so alarmingly thin that one may wonder how she manages to stay alive and kicking. It takes a lot of courage to go the full monty in front of a camera when your body is in such a bad condition.After Sarah’s funeral, David goes to a bar, where he tells a young couple that Sarah was his wife. This is a straight-up lie and that exact moment should already ring a bell. Something is not right with David.
We also follow him helping out the stroke victim John (Michael Cristofer). His children decide to sue David for sexual harassment, though, after David lets him watch porn. He loses his job and has to start over somewhere else. Robin Bartlett plays the role of David’s last patient, who suffers from a severe cancer and begs David to end her life by euthanasia.
Therefore, another key note of Chronic might be the inner struggle that people experience when it comes to making the right decisions in life. David opts for the moral cause several times instead of following legal prescriptions.
The main plot of Chronic is nonetheless to find out about David’s identity. We witness him scrolling through Facebook pictures of the young Nadia Wilson (Sarah Sutherland – daughter of Kiefer), and we watch him following her several times with his car. No, he is not a sexual pervert; it is only in the 2nd half of the film we find she is his biological daughter (there is, however, no real mystery surrounding this so it’s not much of a secret).
Eventually they meet again at his ex-wife’s house, but their relationship has no opportunity to grow, since this is not Franco’s main focus. When watching the film you are automatically more concerned to find out about what happened in the past that made them part; David keeps having that intriguingly mysterious air.
The title does not only refer to the medical conditions of David’s patients, but also to his own disease, namely that of being a pathological liar. The audience may try to see things through, but gets confused by what he says an does every time over and over again. Along with the lack of a decent soundtrack, long and tiring scenes and the use of static camera – the film is mainly built on continuous shots – make you wonder where Chronic is leading to and make you doubt whether there actually is a narrative plot.
Chronic is really only meant for those who love the genre, because it is a shining example of slow drama. But when you believe in karma, you should know that what goes around comes around. No, before you decide to walk out, please make sure you watch the film to the end. It –almost literally – sweeps you off your feet.