Featuring a dynamic performance from Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Waves), this opulent historical drama, inspired by the true story of composer Joseph Bologne, brims with intrigue, romance, and sumptuous music — turning the spotlight on a brilliant Black artist whose legacy has been woefully obscured.
Featuring a magnetic performance from Kelvin Harrison Jr. (TIFF ’19’s Waves; TIFF ’19 Rising Star), this opulent historical drama, brimming with intrigue, romance, and sumptuous music, turns the spotlight on a brilliant Black composer and violinist whose legacy has been woefully obscured.
Chevalier opens with an audacious bang, as Joseph Bologne (Harrison) interrupts a Paris concert conducted by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and makes a dramatic impression on the preening genius and his fancy, 18th-century audience. From there we watch as Bologne, propelled by talent, ambition, and a drive to surmount the racist barriers all around him, climbs his way up from outcast to a place in Marie Antoinette’s inner circle. Born in Guadeloupe as the illegitimate son of an enslaved African and a white French aristocrat, Bologne grew up in Paris as a privileged but stigmatized son. He was afforded the finest education and excelled in music and fencing. But he was still Black.
As a gifted, vital young man, Bologne cuts a dashing figure at court, attracting the attention of an older woman, La Guimard (Minnie Driver). His attempts to manage her overtures, while his own desires lead him to the very married Marie-Josephine (Samara Weaving), complicate any hope he has of achieving his greatest ambition: becoming the next leader of the prestigious Paris Opera.
Director Stephen Williams returns to the Festival 27 years after his groundbreaking debut feature, Soul Survivor. Having directed premium series since then (Watchmen, Lost, How to Get Away with Murder), he brings masterful craft and genuine visual invention to Stefani Robinson’s screenplay. By the time it reaches its surprising, rewarding conclusion, Chevalier has distinguished itself as a riveting, truly original life story.
Content advisory: themes of racism