Chevalier – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Chevalier – Rebel of Hearts and Strings: I am a Violinist

What is it that defines you?  As the world turns, what is it that can be remembered?  With each passing comes meandering tales, but as new stories are told, there is a sensation that can be brought out … that defines the truth.  In this review, I look at the latest historical drama of a lost but not forgotten tale.  A story of a famed composer, this is a journey of love, loss, and triumph.  Even with moments of melodrama, Chevalier is a riveting tale that shows how a violin became the strings of a rebellious cause.

This is the tale of Joseph Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), son of an African slave and French plantation owner, who rose through 18th century France to become the sound of the French Revolution.  On the surface, this film builds off the outline of any typical historical drama.  You have a journey of truth wrapped around dramatization, leaning into the aspect of character through emotional fortitude.  In the beginning, you get a standout prologue that showcases Joseph Bologne’s talent as a violinist.  From here, we move back (in the first act) through a series of expositional flashbacks, showcasing his childhood and rise to prominence against the backdrop of French racism and social unrest (foreshadowing).  As Bologne gains favor of Queen Marie Antoinette (Samara Weaving), he is given the esteemed title of Chevalier de Saint-Georges.  Sitting on top of the world, we head into the second act that becomes a mixed bag of character building against the backdrop of foreboding melodrama.  For all the over-bearing moments of cheeky dialogue and period piece like reverie, there is a subtle touch of endearment when the story focuses on Bologne and his music.  As you watch him break each wall with talented effect, his accomplishments become a smoke screen against the social bigotry and micro-aggression of 18th century France.  Standing at a crossroads, things start to unravel that shatter his dreams.  There is a certain zeal in these reflective moments (by Bologne), helping to build humanistic overtures to the obvious historical drama tropes.  His standing leads to a convoluted web of trust, angst, and love, showcasing a characterized approach to the political aspect (of 18th century France).  As the journey wavers between moments, the wavering of enjoyment becomes a manner of pushing truth through the melodramatic effect of an ill-fated love affair.

For all the scenes that feel authentic, the romantic angle never adds value to character or story.  The jockeying of important takes away from more endearing moments, creating this contrasting of emotional fortitude with a predictable ‘love triangle’ motif.  As the film becomes melodrama heavy, there is a turning point that brings the music (and era) back to the forefront.  With a new lease on his potential, this builds into a third act that highlights the strength of character and social themes.  This leads to a harrowing climax and your familiar ‘truth of the tale’ epilogue.  Chevalier is a historical drama of strong moments and predictable melodrama.  If you are a fan of historical dramas or character focused narratives, this is one for you.  This is something that can be fun to see on the big screen. 

Full Score – 3.5 out of 5 (Matinee)

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