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Boulevard review: a touching final gift from Robin Williams

April 7, 2016

Film + EntertainmentReview | by Dominic Preston


Boulevard

After Robin Williams’ death, four films in which he starred were yet to be released. More than a year and a half later, we can finally see the last of them. Although Boulevard clearly deviates from the other three features’ comedic tones, it is again Williams’ presence that gives the film that much needed extra oomph. While it 

Directed by Dito Montiel (Fighting, Empire State), Boulevard is the story of Nolan (Williams), a 60-year-old man who leads a bourgeois, passive life. His detached but kind wife (Kathy Baker) sleeps in a different bedroom; and he’s completely engrossed in his alienating job in a small bank. He’s emotionally distressed, but never gives true voice to his feelings, be it when tending to his bedridden dying father, receiving a promotion, or dining with his closest friends.

That’s until one night, when he meets Leo (Roberto Aguire), a young and handsome, but insecure, hustler. The two start an unusual relationship that forces Leo to question his choices, and urges Nolan to finally face the world with courage, living for who he is, rather than the person he has always pretended to be. Not only his sexuality, but his whole way of life, come into question.

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Boulevard is much more than a ‘coming out of the closet’ drama, and it certainly isn’t a romantic love story, some elaborated variation on Pretty Woman. A subtle but genuine undertone enforces the film’s commentary on real-life struggles: why does such a well-off man, who lives in a nice house, with a nice wife, friends, and job, complain about a life which is, to put it mildly, above average? Boulevard carefully deconstructs the issue, partially thanks to a well-written script by Douglas Soesbe, but mostly down to one of Williams’ finest performances since Good Will Hunting.

It’s incredible to see the extravagant comedian perfectly give life to such an understated character; Williams’ ticks and bearing are still recognisable in Nolan, but the nature of the act is so genuine, so human, that the economical and social context immediately shifts to the background. Nolan’s problems and struggles become ours, in a perfectly executed process of emotional identification with the character. Boulevard should be appreciated as a sad but fine last gift from Robin Williams.

Words by Davide Prevarin