“So you wanna touch me or what?”
Nolan Mack is the 60-year-old man man who falls for scrawny-but-adorable trick Leo. Boulevard is the story of leading life as a lie, until that lie takes its toll – and is no longer bearable. It’s also the last movie Robin Williams filmed before he took his life.
Robin plays the aforementioned Nolan, the low level banker and married man who since the age of 12 has been suppressing that urge to look at the hot guy on the beach in his oh-so-sexy shorts. The movie tangos between Nolan’s middle American life with wife Joy and a new-found love with the cute Roberto Aguire’s Leo.
The quote above is uttered by Leo, who is paid by Nolan not for sex, but for a long-craved-for romantic entanglement. Speaking before he died, Robin Williams described the movie as having a painful beauty. “There are a lot of unfulfilled relationships in this movie. This story reminds us of how difficult it is to find fulfillment” he said, adding that when Nolan is with Leo, it’s not about the sex, it is about realising what his life has been missing – a romance with another man.
The movie almost a bit like Drive at times, but instead of Ryan Gosling enticing us with a bizarre silence in LA, we Nolan during his solitary drives around the backstreets of Nashville, desperately seeking a way to embrace the identity he was hiding within.
There were moments where the cinematography told a powerful story of Nolan and Joy’s life. It was shot in a house in Nashville where a couple had lived their whole life, before they split up after the husband came out, giving the whole story an extra level of poignancy. The walls between them in the homely but modest house – the barriers Nolan puts up to protect himself.
As a gay man it was easy to connect with Nolan’s story. The movie follows Nolan as he, like many gay men, goes through that confusing, exciting and nerve-wracking time where we try to work out what the hell this whole his sexuality thing is about.
It’s also a jarring story, because in 2016 we too often expect to see that sense or realisation to happen at young age – a perhaps unfair assumption, though coming out at a younger age continues to grow in prevalence. Nolan like so many only accepted his true identity after so much of his life has been led as a lie.
In the film we see what feels like a teenage love story develop with sporadic gifts, and an intense ‘first love’ level of emotion. I remember that amazing and heartbreaking tie to your mobile phone waiting for the text back – but at 60, it’s brand new for Nolan. It should have been so sweet and innocent – even exciting. But for Nolan, constrained by the trapping of the fraudulent life he’s been forced to lead, it becomes as story of lies, fear of losing his job and the dark world of prostitution.
All in all, Boulevard is not a huge blockbuster hit in the making. But as Williams’ final work, it’s a testament to his incredible power as an actor to tell different stories, and it laced with a tragic and moving irony of knowing how we lost one of the world’s most-loved stars to his personal demons.
Williams described the story as one of the most intimate ones he’d ever told. Talking about his character Nolan, he pondered how the film raised lots of questions. Questions like “Is this truly how you want to live? Are you being honest with who you are?” Questions we can all relate to, regardless of the time of life at which they’re posed.
Boulevard opens in UK cinemas April 8. Watch the trailer blow:
Words: Jamie Wareham