Robin Williams’ final film Boulevard is a heartbreaker

Review: Robin Williams signs off with a film that doesn’t quite match his performance.

Robin Williams in Boulevard
Swansong Robin Williams plays a man struggling with his sexuality in Boulevard. Image Picture Kaleidoscope Entertainment

Boulevard (15)
Running Time: 88 minutes
7/10

Nearly two years on from Robin Williams’ tragic passing, his last film Boulevard finally makes its way into UK cinemas.

Though the Dito Montiel-directed movie won’t go down as a classic, it’s a poignant reminder of just how good a dramatic actor Williams was. In Boulevard he isn’t the wacky eccentric of Mrs Doubtfire or Aladdin, or even the creepy weirdo of One Hour Photo or Insomnia. Instead he’s the internalised, tortured soul as he was back in Good Will Hunting.

Boulevard casts him as Nolan Mack, a sixtysomething married man forced to come to terms with his sexuality. Nolan’s encounter with young street hustler Leo (Roberto Aguire) shakes his marriage of convenience with Joy (Kathy Baker), and as his father (Gary Gardner) lies on his deathbed Nolan starts to ask himself if he’s left it too late to lead a happy life.

“Boulevard is a poignant reminder of just how good a dramatic actor Williams was.”

A trio of excellent performances from Williams, Baker and Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk (as Nolan’s best pal Winston) make Boulevard an engaging watch. But at a slender 88 minutes and, often meandering nowhere, it doesn’t quite live up to its leading man. Montiel keeps the mood and atmosphere dialled down throughout, save for one big confession scene which Williams nails.

Around the dinner table Williams offers up a few of the moments we’ve come to expect from him, sparking into life and throwing out impressions to entertain Winston and his young girlfriend (Eleonore Hendricks). It’s the kind of tiny moment the film needs a bit more of just to wake it up from its melancholy.

Williams’ little-seen 2009 gem World’s Greatest Dad saw him play a character experiencing similar personal turmoil – the suicide of his son (a storyline that hits home even harder in retrospect). Though that covered dramatic terrain, it still managed to buzz with an energy that brought levity to the seriousness.

Boulevard may not be the stunning swansong Williams’ glittering career deserved, but it features a performance of note from the much-missed screen icon. You might get emotional when the end credits roll.

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Loaded digital media manager Simon Reynolds has written about film and entertainment for various leading websites since 2008. Follow Simon at @simonreyn

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