Just days after the one-year anniversary of his passing, one of Robin Williams‘ most moving performances will be going to theatres. His last year was a busy one with four titles slated for release, this being the last to reach audiences. Williams built his career on being a reliable funny man, but he was equally effective in more serious roles. While some parts required a mix of his comedic and dramatic talents, others were much more sombre and meant to rouse rather than amuse audiences. Boulevard is the touching tale of a man who’s lived a lie most of his life.
Nolan (Williams) has a steady job at the bank, a big house and a supportive, loving wife (Kathy Baker). They host dinner parties for friends and Nolan is up for a big promotion at work. He visits and cares for his father at a nursing home and lives a relatively routine, quiet existence. But one night he drives down an unfamiliar street and meets Leo (Roberto Aguire), a young, attractive prostitute. Unsure of what to do about the feelings he’s experiencing, Nolan tries to form a relationship with the troubled boy. He buys him clothes, finds him legitimate employment and makes sure he’s compensated for their time together. But Leo can’t fill the hole in Nolan’s life, which means it can only end in heartbreak.
At first glance, Nolan’s life seems so idyllic. The subtle signs of restlessness are not suspect for a man of his age, feeling trapped by the mundaneness of a life lived to the expectations of others. Meeting Leo is the pin that pops his balloon. Suddenly Nolan is confronted with something he could have had if he’d chosen a different path and it overwhelms him. He grasps at these freshly exposed emotions with an iron fist, risking everything else in the process. And even though his feelings are misplaced, Nolan realizes they can no longer be buried.
However Nolan’s enlightenment leads him down a sad and difficult course. Watching his world gradually unravel for a fantasy is heart-rending — especially when he appears blind to it and even more so when he seems powerless to stop it. Williams’ sincerity is the key to this picture’s success and he is flawless. The desperate way he clings to Leo is reminiscent of adolescent first love; a passion the actor displays with absolute genuineness. And with equal commitment, he portrays Nolan’s despair. Aguire is the perfect receptacle for Nolan’s sentiments, simultaneously flattered and fearful of his attentions. Leo is unquestionably ill-suited to the Pretty Woman-type deal laid affectionately in front of him. On the flipside, everything is drifting away from Baker’s character. She’s not naïve, but can’t help but feel betrayed by her husband’s revelations.
Yet after all the grief and sorrow, the film still ends on an inspirational note — it’s an agreeable conclusion and an even nicer way to finish William’s last dramatic role.