Film Review: Boulevard


The majority of headlines and reviews on Boulevard – this one included – will preface any thoughts on Dito Montiel’s latest offering with the simple fact that it is Robin Williams’ last appearance onscreen. Considering the final performance of a cinematic great brings with it a tendency for nostalgia and, occasionally, undue praise, so while remaining compassionate it’s important to be as dispassionate as possible. With the best will in the world it must be said that Boulevard is a less than worthy denouement to a fine career.

Williams plays Nolan, a strait-laced, amiable but rather dull bank clerk. Shy and lacking in vigour, he has been married to Joy (a fiercely restrained Kathy Baker who one wishes had been given a more fully developed part) for umpteen years. Although forcibly congenial the couple have separate beds and pass like ships in the night, never sharing any kind of physical intimacy or closeness. Reasons for marital disunity will unfurl alongside the awkward preposterousness of the other narrative line. Returning from visiting his sick father one night, Nolan cruises along the titular/metaphorical expanse of road contemplating a rendezvous with a prostitute. Has he done this before, or is now the time to break a lifeless existence with something illicit? Distracted, he half runs over street worker, Leo (Roberto Aguire), to whom he apologies profusely, stating that he has a real fear of hurting people. Where this aversion comes from we will never know but it is the thinnest of threads on which to hang all that follows.

Questions as to Nolan’s motivations for this newfound kinship, and the rupture of decades of routine, abound: what is he looking to obtain from this relationship if not fulfilling long suppressed sexual urges? Did he and Joy lose a child, or in the absence of having a son is he looking for a surrogate? Does he simply want to do this young man a good turn? Montiel is unable to elevate Douglas Soesbe’s weak script to a point where any of these notions are satisfactorily developed, let alone answered.

Though money changes hands upon each encounter, no sexual acts are undertaken. No doubt intended to imbue Nolan’s lifelong closetedness with tenderness and fragility, it plays as overly safe, not allowing his character the cathartic release that fifty years spent living a lie demanded. Acting like a lovesick teenager, he stays up late at night longing for a text message, is late for work, and ends up in a scrape because of his boy fancy’s predictably aggressive and verbally abusive pimp (woefully acted by Giles Matthey). We conclude with platitudes of being true to oneself, living the life you want and travelling down many road in a lifetime. It’s a pity that Williams ended up here but a relief he will be remembered for so many great films and not this ignominious swansong.

Matthew Anderson | @behind_theseens

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