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.
Demonic peddler of violence and profanity or visionary saviour of modern cinema, Quentin Tarantino is nothing if not a divisive figure. Your enjoyment of his latest, The Hateful Eight, will probably be tied to whichever side your personal opinion rests. So if you’re a delicate flower of Jane Austen sensibilities, we suggest you either dig out the smelling salts or look away now.
Being arguably the biggest movie geek this side of a grindhouse double bill, Mr Tarantino does nothing by halves. Except here he does, for the all singing, all dancing ‘roadshow’ version of The Hateful Eight is quite literally a film of two halves, split by a 15 minute ‘Interval’ and preceded by an ‘Intermission’. Which is just as well, seeing it runs to a bum-numbing 182 minutes and a Sloth’s bladder is only so big. An homage to the classic western, he also shot it on 77mm film, presumably because that is obtuse and difficult. Geekiness aside, is it any good?
Set just after the American Civil War, we meet three of our eight during a blizzard in Wyoming. Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) is a bounty hunter adrift in the snow, who catches a ride on a stagecoach occupied by fellow bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) who is transporting his captured bounty Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) cross country to claim his reward. En route they pick up several more waifs and strays before sheltering from the storm at a mountain inn which already holds several other dubious characters including Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) and Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) to make our eight. The next few hours are spent sizing each other up as it becomes clear they may all have vested interests in the fate of Daisy Domergue.
The first half is a slow burn. Talky, hypnotic and highly theatrical, our characters bandy the n-word around with typical controversial Tarantino abandon, pushing each other’s buttons over the recent civil war. The second half sees tensions boil over and the inevitable bloodbath ensue. And that, essentially, is it. A chamber piece stretched over 182 minutes. Is it indulgent? Sure. Is it offensive? Doubtless. Is it interesting? Absolutely. Tarantino is famously allowed huge amounts of creative freedom by his producers, which is rare due to movies being subject to commercial pressures so, most of all, it’s fascinating to see what comes out when these constraints are lifted. Would we be calling this indulgent if it were performed on a theatre stage, rather than a cinema? Perhaps not.
UK release 8 January