Just over a year after we lost the comedic, talented genius that was Robin Williams, director Dito Montiel brings Douglas Soesbe’s compelling tale of married couple Joy and Nolan to screen in the heartfelt Boulevard. Knowing what Williams is capable off is enough to get bums on seats for this one, and here the man truly shines. In fact, the film itself is both a roughly cut gem and a breath of fresh air amongst the overly wishy washy tear-jerkers the industry is currently churning out. Boulevard is an intelligent and hard hitting watch that tackles a controversial issue with absolute ease.
Joy (Kathy Baker) and Nolan (Robin Williams) are married. Nothing too bizarre, until we see this supposed married couple living in separate bedrooms and basically leading completely separate lives. It quickly becomes apparent that their relationship is a farce. Their odd affection for one another has kept it going for as long as it has and it’s Nolan who takes it upon himself to address the fact they are only staying together out of convenience. Painfully awkward scenes emerge as they dine together and say the meaningless words ‘I love you’ in an auto-pilot fashion. Whilst best friend and eventually the voice of reason Winston (Bob Odenkirk) is content, living a life of writing and traveling with girlfriend, Nolan is a cog in a machine that has been broken for years.
Confronting his fears and acting upon them provides Nolan with much needed relief; and although this is a world he should have been a part of for most of his adult life, it’s not nearly as terrifying as going back to the incomplete life he currently leads. Meeting frail Leo (Roberto Aguire) on the corner of the street sparks something inside him which in turn develops into a beautifully fragmented relationship. Winding up in a hotel room together, for Nolan it isn’t about the sex – it’s just about making peace with his one true self. Placing a clichéd ill father into the mix lets the side down slightly, but such a tactic allows our protagonist to reveal the secret of his sexuality, not only to his father, but to the audience and, most importantly, himself.
Buried beneath this deeply saddening situation are plenty of laughs. At times it almost becomes a defence mechanism and near impossible to stop chuckling as Nolan cracks a joke or Joy suggests something more ludicrous than keeping their marriage afloat. Breaking Bad star Odenkirk as the best friend Winston is a great asset, bringing charisma and charm to his greying young at heart professor. Perhaps relying on comedy slightly too much, it would be great to see him sink his teeth into something else; nevertheless Boulevard needed a lift in tone and Odenkirk is certainly the man for the job.
It is truly a delight to see yet another filmmaker branch out into the vast exciting world that is LGBT cinema. Montiel successfully proves how versatile and skilful a director he is, whilst the late Robin Williams’ Nolan is of the same calibre of Good Will Hunting’s Sean and English teacher Keating in the wonderful Dead Poets Society. For this is a moving and tender film; with something rather special to offer.