Boulevard (2014)

Boulevard (2014)
  • Time: 88 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Dito Montiel
  • Cast: Robin Williams, Bob Odenkirk, Kathy Baker


This complex, life-affirming, and surprising film stars Robin Williams in his remarkable final performance. BOULEVARD follows a married but closeted 60 year-old bank employee (Williams) whose life changes in unexpected ways after recklessly picking up a young male hustler. Kathy Baker, Bob Odenkirk and up-and-comer Roberto Aguire costar.

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  • “Sometimes it’s nice to be somewhere else,” Nolan Mack (Robin Williams) says several times in the affecting drama Boulevard.

    It’s a wistful declaration from a man who has never been anywhere but here. Nolan is not an exciting man, nor has he had an exciting life. He has worked at the same branch for the same bank for 26 years. He has been married to the same woman, Joy (Kathy Baker), for just as long if not longer. They have no children, they sleep in separate bedrooms, they have dinner every so often with his longtime best friend Winston (Bob Odenkirk), with whom he dreamed of moving to New York in their younger days. Joy talks of going on a cruise, but one can’t imagine Nolan voluntarily deviating from his routine.

    A sea change can happen at any point in one’s life (“Maybe it’s never too late to start living the life you really wants,” Winston notes) and, after nearly five decades of stasis and complacency, all sorts of disturbances are altering the monotony of Nolan’s life. There is the promotion his manager is pushing him to consider – all Nolan needs to do is sit down for dinner with the regional president. Winston has started dating one of his students Patty (Eleanore Hendricks). More seriously, Nolan’s ailing father’s condition is deteriorating.

    Nolan and his father have never been close but taking care of his worsening father is “what you’re supposed to do,” he tells Leo (Roberto Aguire), the young street hustler he has impulsively picked up and brought to a motel room. Nolan is not seeking sex, much to the confusion of Leo who is already half-undressed within minutes of arriving in the room. There is something about Leo that stirs something within Nolan – it’s not exactly desire, at least not yet, and it’s not entirely a protective instinct. He wants to take care of Leo – he gives him more money than necessary at their initial encounter; in their subsequent meetings, he gifts Leo with a pre-paid cell phone so they can always contact each other, and pays for the uniform Leo will wear to the job that Nelson has secured for him.

    Yet Nolan’s kindnesses unsettle Leo, who suspects more sinister motives lurking in Nolan’s loneliness. Indeed, there’s a degree of disquieting desperation, not to mention possessiveness, that accompanies Nolan’s every gesture. But it’s a desperation and possessiveness borne out of at last having something so long desired so in reach. For, as Nolan reveals to his bedridden father in an extraordinary scene, he has known since he was 12 years old that he was a homosexual and “suddenly I’m 60 years old and I’m still waiting for something I felt was promised to me, something that never came.” Director Dito Montiel holds the camera close on Williams’ face as it contorts into sadness, anger, regret, and acceptance. The blame may seem unleashed on his father, but Nolan fully understands that it is he and he alone who has compartmentalised his life, suppressed his true nature, and lived a comfortable illusion because he did not want to risk hurting anyone.

    In many respects, Boulevard can be viewed as a companion piece to 2013’s Locke, where Tom Hardy’s title character undergoes a crisis that threatens the safety of the life he has built for himself. Both men are struggling to do the right thing and to get their loved ones, especially their wives, on board with their decisions. Boulevard is a slightly more expansive, though no less intimate, film than Locke, but it comes close to being a similar one-man show. Williams, in one of his final screen performances, expertly carves out a complex portrayal that is remarkable in its restraint and depth of longing. Aguire, Odenkirk, and Baker do excellent supporting work. Baker, particularly, is devastating as a woman who loves her husband but cannot accept letting him go.

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