Chevalier Review

Cast: Kelvin Harrison Jr, Samara Weaving, Lucy Boynton

Director: Stephen Williams

Genre: Biography, Drama, History

Release Date: June 9th


Inspired by the incredible story of composer Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges. The illegitimate son of an enslaved African and a French plantation owner, Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr) rises to improbable heights in French society as a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer, complete with an ill-fated love affair and a falling out with Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) herself and her court.

Chevalier is a story I have yet to become familiar with, nor have I ever learned about Joseph Bologne until this movie. I was surprised about having very little knowledge about him because he had such a sufficient impact throughout history and the French Revolution. Much of his music and story have been lost to time, so we only know a little about him. Since he was a mixed-race man, he ascended to the highest royal court level, but he could only go so far. This story navigates the highs and lows of his identity, music, and place within society and the world. Kelvin Harrison jr (Chevalier) gives an electrifying charismatic performance that sometimes carries the movie when it feels a little stayed and safe. This film has a fantastic supporting cast, including Lucy Boynton (Marie Antoinette) and Samara Weaving (Marie-Josphine), with whom Bologne has an affair within this movie. The flamboyantly opening scene, which involves a violin duel between Chevalier and Mozart (Joseph Prowen), excites us immediately as we are drawn in to witness this epic musical battle. This sets an expectation that this bio-pic will be outrageous and lavish in a Baz Luhrmann filmmaking style but slowly loses steam.


Some of the scenes in the film are accurate, and some are fabricated, which can sometimes always be the outcome of historical costume dramatic features like this one. It would have been nice to see The Director (Stephen Williams) and Writer (Stefani Robinson) take a few more chances with a person who was daring and bold throughout his life and entered realms that somebody of mixed race could not. I sometimes wished that the movie showed that level of confidence to be brave in trying different approaches to the script and performance instead of sometimes being too historically correct. After the credits roll, extensive research is needed to determine and extinguish fiction with reality. The movie tends to drift away from the fascinating story of Chevalier as a person and his struggles with racism and self-acceptance. Instead, it focuses more on the French Revolution in the foreground towards the film’s second half, which doesn’t become engaging; instead, the film tries to shoehorn in more dramatic importance. Historical context is needed to understand why Bologne’s place in this world matters. Still, there are many missed opportunities when we are overloaded with historical lessons about the French Revolution, which becomes too traditional and boring.


This is a good period piece scattered with sexual romantic chemistry and boasts excellent performances throughout. The production and costume designs are spectacular, which will undoubtedly cause some buzz around Oscar award season. Chevalier is a remarkable story, and I am glad his place in the world exists now; The movie tells us that Napoleon Bonaparte essentially destroyed his legacy. The look of the movie is very similar to the film Amadeus (1994), and in parts can be distracting. The focus of the movie such be centred around Chevalier, but the love arc deflates the narrative and distracts us from the importance of the character, and It took me in and out at times. The accuracy of the French Revolution’s timeline in the plot can sometimes be questionable. Marie Antoinette is praised by her people with respect and dignity in this movie when in reality, she showed obliviousness to the poor conditions in which the French lived in the 1700s. This historical unreliability makes you want to raise your awareness of the correctness. When you begin to ease off when nitpicking at the limited amount of flaws in this film, you will appreciate it as an enjoyable and watchable period drama.

Overall: 6.5/ 10

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