Film review of the drama about a nurse who cares for the terminally ill (Tim Roth) but who gets too close to his patients than is comfortable for their relatives. Directed by Michel Franco.
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Director: Michel Franco. (93 mins). Stromboli/Vamonos. (15)
Cast & credits
Producer: Michel Franco, Gina Kwon, Gabriel Ripstein, Moises Zonana.
Writer: Michel Franco.
Camera: Yves Cape.
Sets: Matt Luem.
Tim Roth, Bitsie Tulloch, David Dastmalchian, Maribeth Monroe, Claire van der Boom, Tate Ellington, Sarah Sutgherland, Robin Bartlett, Michael Cristofer, Jo Santos.
David (Roth) is a nurse who looks after terminally ill patients. Initially welcomed with open arms by family members who are only too happy for him to assume the reigns of care-giving, he then subtley elbows them out of their loved one’s life. But his dedication blurs the line between exceptional care and unethical, too intimate attachments as he seeks his own emotional fulfilment.
We are so used to being bombarded with media and marketing images of the alpha and omega of the human body (those that are gym fit, muscled, sexy and those that are obese, corpulent, squidgy – particularly pertinent given our government’s current hysteria over anyone, even a child, being overweight) that it comes as something of a shock to see the body in it’s other state, disabled, diseased, or distressed.
Writer-director Franco’s ‘End Of Life porno’ certainly doesn’t shy away from showing us the human form in all its sweating, vomiting, defecating ugliness the final moments of people who have been ravaged by illness.
Right from the get go, as David showers with an uncomfortable thoroughness that borders on the obscene the limp, almost unresponsive husk that is his patient (Pickup), we see with Franco’s unflinching, unmoving eye the devastation AIDS inflicts. Not wanting to let his viewers off easily, the camera lingers on this awkward moment, instantly pricking our eyes up about this strange and devoted man’s behaviour and motivations.
There’s no real question in our minds about whether he is over-stepping the mark. He does, with almost professional precision, not only forming sexual attachments to his patients but even assuming their lives and interests outside of the ‘death bedroom’…but to what end when the gain is not financial? Why risk his career and possible financial ruin or imprisonment?
Janus, of Roman mythology, was a god of many things, including doors, gates and transitions and traditionally is depicted as having two-faces seeing the beginning and end of conflicts.
The impeccable, steely, cool Roth’s David is a modern-day Janus-Kopf (Janus Face), whose two very different faces create and maintain the internal, familial conflicts of Franco’s story.
As a nurse, he is supremely confident and skilled but manipulative, needy and gingerly abusive. He dresses in comfortingly clinical shades of blue. One can quite readily see how being in such a position can convey in people power, control and moral righteousness.
Outside of work, and in the bright glare of the Los Angeles sun, he transmogrifies into an unassuming, non-entity of a man, with a quiet, polite English accent, hunched up shoulders, shuffling gait, wearing muted tones of brown and green.
This contrast of visuals is carried over into the perceptive production design and cinematography: crisp greys, silver and magnolia for David’s wealthier clients, drab interiors for poor cancer patient Marta (Bartlett), her walls adorned not with pictures of fine houses but cheap, wall ornaments.