Without knowing much of his back story, or any plans for his future, we experience the day-to-day existence of home care nurse, David (Tim Roth). Extremely compassionate toward his terminally ill patients, he devotes himself to their care and comfort, forming a special kind of intimacy that’s hard to understand from the outside.
But for all of David’s efficiency and dedication with his clients, his personal life is a wreck. He’s healing from some sort of trauma, isolated and depressed, secretly needing his clients as much as they need him.
I found this film to be deeply moving, not least of all because of Tim Roth’s strong performance. He brings dignity but also humanity to the role. We slip easily into the shoes of both care giver and the cared for, and both are unsettling experiences.
Director Michel Franco keeps us grounded in each moment by omitting a musical score. There are no distractions to be found in Chronic.
Franco’s camera, conservative in movement and breadth, penetrates to the fragile core of life, and stays beyond the last breath. The stillness of the picture forces us to feel each second ticking by, life slipping slowly between the fingers, blood pumping toward its finale. Franco’s tone matches Roth’s reserved performance, the colours subdued, the sound restrained. This proximity to death and the realism of what’s on screen is uncomfortable. You might even wonder if it’s worth going through this hardship, but that’s exactly how you should be feeling: to be the nurse in a palliative situation is much worse; to be the patient, unthinkable. Until it isn’t. Until one day it’s you, or your mother, or your spouse. And that’s what’s most disquieting. Michel Franco is voyeuristic as a director, and we sense the detachment, and its necessity.
Chronic is cold, bold, and a stark reminder that in the end, death comes for us all.