Director Dito Montiel‘s agreeable later-life coming-out drama “Boulevard” already labors under a burden of true tragedy: It’s the last dramatic role the late Robin Williams filmed before his August 2014 suicide, the knowledge of which colors and shapes a viewer’s reaction to the film. James Rocchi, The Wrap, about Boulevard
In one of his most touching and nuanced performances, the actor of many faces and master of twice as many voices plays a polite, reserved and unassuming man named Nolan Mack—a cultured, educated and repressed officer of a bank in Nashville, Tenn., where he has worked for 26 years, with a father in a nursing home and a devoted schoolteacher wife named Joy (another performance, real as breathing, by the marvelous Kathy Baker). They appreciate the same music, movies and books as well as small dinners with friends, share the household duties and then formally retire to separate bedrooms. Nolan has no vices and no outstanding virtues, either. He’s been a blank page since he had his first sexual experience with another boy at the age of 12 and then erased it from his life for five decades. This is the year when everything changes.
Peter Debruge, Variety, tells us how:
Returning home from a visit to his father in the retirement home one night, Nolan upsets his routine with a rare impulsive decision. He’s driven by the streetwalkers who line the boulevard countless times without ever so much as acknowledging them. Now, for some reason, he pulls up alongside them, clearly trying to muster the courage to speak to one of them when a young man steps in front of his car. Despite his tawdry profession and strung-out look, Leo (Roberto Aguire) may as well be an angel fallen from heaven, and Nolan accepts the offer to give him a ride without ever collecting on the implied double entendre.
John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter, elaborates:
…The two begin an intermittent (paid) relationship that, however positive their encounters are, is strange enough it inevitably creates problems for both men: Nolan makes excuses for being out late that Joy knows are lies; Leo is so thrown by having a customer not want sex that he responds erratically…
We get a feel for the healthier part of Nolan’s world over lunches and dinners with his best friend Winston (Bob Odenkirk), a college professor who dates his students…
It’s Winston, by the way, who winds up expressing (to Nolan) a main theme: “Maybe it’s never too late to finally start living the life you really want.”
You can watch the trailer for Boulevard here:
Williams As Nolan
Stephen Holden, New York Times: “…(H)e may be the loneliest man Mr. Williams ever played. Under his bland exterior, he is emotionally curled into a fetal position. The performance is so convincing that you can’t help wondering to what degree Nolan resembles the more somber Robin Williams…”
Peter Debruge, Variety: “…(T)he actor projects a regret so deep and identifiable, viewers should have no trouble connecting it to whatever is missing in their own lives — whether those regrets are romantic, sexual, professional or spiritual.”
Andrew Lapin, NPR: “It’s an exquisite performance, and one with unmissable glimpses of some deep depression.”