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'Boulevard' movie review -- 3 stars

Kathy Baker and Robin Williams star in

Kathy Baker and Robin Williams star in "Boulevard." Photo Credit: Starz Digital

For a man who was primarily known for his manic comic sensibilities, Robin Williams had an extraordinary gift for internalizing emotions on-screen.

Some of the late actor's best and most memorable performances found him playing shells of men, individuals beaten and battered by life's circumstances to the point where they could barely verbalize anything at all.

His subtlety is on display one final time in "Boulevard," which features his final big screen performance and is a movie that garners the entirety of its dramatic power from the moments of stifling quiet and the dramatic things left unsaid between the star's Nolan Mack and his long-suffering wife Joy (Kathy Baker).

The marriage between Nolan, a 60-year-old bank employee, and Joy, a part-time ESL teacher, is utterly passionless, though there is a strong platonic love between them. Years of repression and inner conflict come to a head when Nolan, who has hidden his homosexuality from the world, drives aimlessly one night, happens upon a young male prostitute named Leo (Roberto Aguire) and decides that he needs saving.

That sounds like fodder for a bad Lifetime movie, or some other cheap piece of exploitation.

But director Dito Montiel ("A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints") handles it with the utmost sensitivity and Williams and Baker elevate things to the point where you feel the pangs of loss and regret that permeate the picture from beginning to end.

Williams had lost his way a bit in terms of his on-screen work toward the end, trapped in thankless comic supporting parts and smaller dramas with material that was often beneath him and his special talents. It's a wonderful thing to see him in full again, one of the generation's great actors transporting us into the depths of a wounded soul.


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