Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. Mexico/France, 2015. Lucia Films, Stromboli Films, Televisa Cine, Trebol Stone, Vamonos Films, Videocine. Screenplay by Michel Franco. Cinematography by Yves Cape. Produced by Michel Franco, Gina Kwon, Gabriel Ripstein, Moises Zonana. Production Design by Matt Luem. Costume Design by Diaz. Film Editing by Julio Perez IV. Cannes Film Festival Awards 2015. Independent Spirit Awards 2016.
Tim Roth plays a nurse in long-term care whose patient dies and sends him on to his next assignment, as caregiver for a stroke victim. In the outside world, Roth speaks about his patients as if they’re actual family members (like telling people his wife died instead of his patient), or even impersonates them (like buying architecture books as if it is him and not his patient who is in that field). When a family objects to his comfortable intimacy with their relative and get him fired for sexual harassment, he has to work off the grid, which brings him to caring for a cancer patient (Robin Bartlett) who has a practical view of both him and her own condition. Michel Franco’s spare, drawn-out film is subtle but never dull, trading easily on its lead character’s charisma and the mysteries that he invokes. Roth reveals himself to be as much dependent on his charges as they are on him, even skirting the line of sanity without ever overindulging in an unsympathetic and unnecessary portrayal of madness, while the situation in his personal life that gradually reveals itself hooks us in until we find out more. A ridiculous ending that feels like a screenwriter unable to decide how to end his film is a drawback, but not enough of one to ruin the memory of a film chock full of good moments and, especially in the case of the always superb Bartlett, terrific performances.