Tag Archives: Tim Roth

Luce

Luce is an athlete and a star student, respected by faculty and friends. He’s soon to be valedictorian of his class. His success is particularly celebrated because Luce was adopted from Eritrea at the age of 10. He seems to have made a miraculous transition, overcome his tragic past.

So it’s a little jarring to his adoptive parents Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter (Tim Roth) when his teacher calls them in with some news. Ms. Wilson (Octavia Spencer) shows them an essay he wrote supporting violence as a necessary means for freeing colonized people. Considering his background (child soldier?), Ms. Wilson thinks it’s prudent to search his locker, and presents them with her findings: illegal fireworks. With school security being such a high priority, Ms. Wilson knows that if anyone else were to find these, Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) would be in hot water. She hopes his parents can intervene at home. However, Amy and Peter are loathe to bring it up, wanting to preserve the trusting relationship that was built with such difficulty. This seems like a relatively small blip in an otherwise unblemished record. But Luce finds the evidence and isn’t happy about the doubt or the suspicions of either his parents or his teacher.

Things escalate from there of course. Ms. Wilson’s accusations accumulate, and their repercussions amplify. Ms. Wilson is unrelenting but other authority figures are unwilling to compromise Luce’s stellar reputation. It’s her world against his, Luce’s parents trapped somewhere in between, wanting to protect their son but also wondering if he’s truly escaped his past. What is the right move? And to whom are they obligated?

The film is disorienting and Harrison’s performance is sufficiently nuanced to leave us guessing: is he being profiled or is he capable of some very exacting vengeance? The film plays with stereotypes and symbols in a way that’s deliciously tangled, addressing racism in a way that reflects its complexity and inextricability. Luce excels at sustained tension and menace, leaving the audience without its footing.

This chilling drama will have you weighing the costs of conformity, considering the limits of parental responsibility, subverting the notion of assimilation. Luce is uncomfortable but essential.

1 Mile To You

1 Mile To You is apparently just a nickname; you might find Life At These Speeds on its birth certificate. A movie by any other name would still be just as cruddy though.

The film is about a high school athlete named Kevin. He wins a major race at an event but then loses his entire track and field team (plus his girlfriend) to a bus crash that he’s MV5BMTU2Mjk5MjQ3NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTA1ODg2MTI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,666,1000_AL_only spared from because he’d promised his parents to ride home with them. The grief is crushing of course, and he decides the only thing he can do is outrun it. Suddenly he’s even better than he was before, obliterating track records, leaving all his opponents in the dust. He attracts a lot of attention from the very best coaches and schools but none of it makes him happy because running just makes him remember. Grief is a complicated animal but thanks to an attentive coach (Billy Crudup), running becomes a coping mechanism rather than an escape, and we actually see young Kevin grow and develop, not just as an athlete, but as a young man coming to grips with a painful past. Can grief be a motivator? Can it be conquered? Can it be fuel?

They’re interesting questions in a not very interesting movie. Inner turmoil is difficult to show on screen I suppose, made more difficult by cheesy directing and the limitations of a young (though decidedly not young enough to play a high school student) actor. The film is inconsistent, and sometimes confusing. It has trouble deciding which characters are important, with certain members of the cast popping up at random times, as if it’s not so much a movie about grief and running as a curious game of whack-a-mole. Don’t worry though, there’s not enough character development to go around, so you won’t really care.

Chronic

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.

chronicI 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.