Never let it be said that The Sloth doesn’t bring you the best of top quality movie entertainment. With that in mind, how’d you fancy one about a nurse who looks after the terminally ill? You’d be all over that like a cheap suit, right?
Chronic opens with David (Tim Roth) tenderly washing a naked, painfully thin and clearly desperately ill woman in a bath. From the gentle, patient care he takes with her, David presumably must be her husband. But no, we soon find out he instead is a nurse supplied by a care agency who look after the dying in their own homes. David is an excellent nurse – devoted, kind, utterly dedicated to those entrusted to him. But perhaps just a little too dedicated.
Our initial impressions of David are exemplary. He shows calm, reassuring professionalism, an easy rapport, chatting quietly, soothing nerves. But slowly things start to seem somewhat ‘off’. Should David be amiably encouraging an elderly male patient to watch porn on his computer? Is it just harmless fun, cheering an old boy up? Should David be sending away his night time shift replacement, taking on a double shift and sleeping on the sofa beside a female patient? More alarmingly, should he be telling strangers in a bar that ‘his wife’ has just died, when we know he is in fact referring to a female patient who has just passed away.
The more we learn about David, the more we realise his own life experiences are impacting his work life. An exploration of where professional and moral boundaries start and end, Chronic’s strength is in its nonjudgmental tone, inviting us to consider at what point does personal experience benefit or hinder those in the care professions? It also delves into deeper issues around euthanasia and the right to die. Central to the success of this film is Tim Roth’s exemplary and understated performance as David, as equally sympathetic as he is disturbing. Chronic is hardly cheery, but it’s extremely intelligent and deals with big issues in a sensitive and thought provoking way. Trust us, you’ll still be ruminating on it months later.