I have been quietly terrified about watching Boulevard since the tragic passing of Robin Williams in 2014. The final role for an iconic actor is no easy thing to watch; it’s even harder when it’s one of your heroes. Boulevard is a bittersweet experience, the last on screen performance from Williams is one of the finest of his career.
Directed by Dito Montiel (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints), Boulevard is the story of Nolan (Williams), a 60-year-old man who has been in a lifelong rut despite his seemingly happy marriage to the ironically named Joy (Kathy Baker). One night, Nolan is out for a directionless drive to be alone with his thoughts, but a chance encounter with a wayward young hustler (Roberto Aguire) forces him to be finally honest with himself. As the two grow closer, Nolan begins to accept it’s never too late to live the life you wanted, even if it threatens to destroy his safe yet unfulfilling existence.
Nolan is a man who has never allowed himself to be honest about his sexuality; he can’t even confide in one of his oldest friends (a fantastic Bob Odenkirk) and the only human being he can be truthful with is his near comatose father.
Williams never struggled to balance his beloved comedic performances with the dramatic, and here he gives a brave and often heartbreaking final reminder of his powers as a dramatic actor. The story of a man at odds with depression does make it difficult to watch as the mirror the real-life battle Williams fought with his own demons. That said, It would be an insult to his memory not to experience his final film, while it might be occasionally flawed, Boulevard handles a delicate subject matter with dignity and frequent flashes of brilliance.
My fear about the film was not grounded in its appeal or quality, but in how it will leave me feeling after the last Robin Williams performance has been seen. It turns out my fears were well founded as by the time the credits rolled; I was in tears. In part, it was the final optimistic note for Nolan and the promise of better days to come, but I cried as it felt like I was saying farewell to a friend, a friend I never met in person yet one that has been with me since I first watched Mork and Mindy as a child.
Boulevard is out now on DVD.