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Review: Tim Roth is superb in quietly powerful drama ‘Chronic’

Michael Cristofer, left, and Tim Roth in the movie "Chronic."
Michael Cristofer, left, and Tim Roth in the movie “Chronic.”
(Gregory Smith / Monument Releasing)

For a drama that’s as quiet and circumspect as “Chronic,” it’s a decidedly bold film, one that pulls few punches as it slowly peels away the emotional layers of its complex protagonist. It also features an ending that’s as devastating as it is shocking.

Tim Roth superbly disappears into his role of David Wilson, a lonely, troubled home-care nurse supremely dedicated to the well-being of his patients. He approaches his ailing clients with the kind of warmth, care and intimacy that may have eluded his personal relationships, particularly ones with his ex-wife (Nailea Norvind) and college student daughter (Sarah Sutherland).

Writer-director Michel Franco, who won best screenplay honors at 2015’s Cannes Film Festival, keeps his camera at a steady, respectful distance as he masterfully charts David’s somber journey assisting a series of severely ill folks: a dying AIDS patient (Rachel Pickup), a stroke victim (Michael Cristofer) and a cancer sufferer (Robin Bartlett).

That last case, however, will test David’s compassion and ethics as it evokes perhaps the most haunting decision of his life. Like much else here, the result is a powerful yet effectively subdued mix of vigilance and ambiguity.

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Franco, who was inspired here by real-life events surrounding the death of his grandmother, infuses this tough, poignant portrait with the sort of detail and veracity that comes from attention closely paid.

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‘Chronic’

MPAA Rating: R, for some nudity and language

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Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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