Michel Franco’s Chronic is a challenging mumblecore movie about dying, and as a Mexican-French co-production, it feels very much like what it is: a foreign film shot in sunny Los Angeles. David (Tim Roth) is a hospice nurse who tends to terminally ill patients in their homes, often above and beyond the call of duty, with-out displaying much of a lust for life in his own right. His off-hours don’t extend to much more than constant exercise, and a slow attempt at reconciliation with his estranged daughter Nadia (Sarah Sutherland). Chronic is both unflinching and unsentimental in its look at the indignities of living with a terminal illness, and Franco films most scenes in a long, unbroken medium shots without music or camera movement. Although a few threads threaten to turn into a plot, particularly regarding the lengths David goes to for the elderly John (Michael Cristofer, far less menacing than he is on Mr. Robot), Chronic doesn’t really have a story or arc to speak of. Present in every scene and seldom betraying emotion, Roth’s blank performance keeps Chronic from becoming another entry in the Sad Bastard genre, but by its (wholly unexpected) denouement, it’s a character study in which little is revealed about the character being studied.
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.