Chevalier Is a Dynamite Film About A Hidden History

Chevalier still of Chevalier (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) looking upset.

Chevalier brings to light the tale of Joseph Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a Black man who rose to fame in France as a violinist, composer, and fencer. Bologne’s journey to Chevalier has romance, drama, and racism as he struggles for his place in a society unwilling to accept him on his terms. Seeing a film that showcases a history largely kept out of the history books brings additional joy while viewing. Classical and opera music captures the passion and conflict, accenting the layered performance of Kelvin Harrison Jr., making Chevalier an inspiring, informative, and enjoyable eye-opener. 

Chevalier Has a Compelling Story and Cast

Chevalier still of Chevalier (Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Marie-Josephine (Samara Weaving) smiling at each other.
Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Samara Weaving the film CHEVALIER. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

Written by Stefani Robinson and directed by Stephen Williams, Chevalier, opens with a scene that perfectly encapsulates the skill and swag that Chevalier de Saint-Georges possesses. As he struts onstage where Mozart performs, not only does he initially hold his own, but Chevalier handily surpasses him. He leaves an angered and whiny Mozart demanding to know his identity. Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s acting conveys the self-assuredness necessary in a society that belittles you for being Black. Furthermore, he shows the eclipsing emotions that rise and fall; confidence, pain, and anger at the unfairness. 

The rest of the cast delivers fantastic performances. Ronke Adekoluejo, as Chevalier’s mom, Nanon, stands out. She has that affection for a son she has not seen in years, and that cautionary wisdom children often ignore when their parents impart it. Minnie Driver as the angry, controlling La Guimard is excellent and angering. Samara Weaving, as Marie-Jospehine, balances whiteness and that struggle for temporary independence while trapped in a loveless marriage.

Shows Familiar Classical White Supremacy

Chevalier still of Chevalier (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) sitting as his mother, Nanon (Ronke Adekoluejo) braids his hair.
Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Ronke Adekoluejo in the film CHEVALIER. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

Some moments highlight how out of place Chevalier feels. It feels current, as those experiences haven’t changed. Since he grew up around white people, he feels closer to them and ignores how easily white friends can turn on him. Many people today believe the same because they haven’t been in a situation requiring their white friends to step out of their comfort zone. 

As you watch, your heart aches and rages for Chevalier as his mom cautions him about believing he is a part of this white world and society. The issue is not all racism comes from hateful slurs and physical violence. Racism can also be the inaction of white friends or their propensity to throw Black friends and people under the bus for their gains. Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) could be today’s white liberal, happy to sit with injustice if it benefits her. 

Fans of classical music and opera will enjoy Chevalier. The music is not forced but feels natural for each setting, emphasizing the period and emotions. It’s dramatic, and though some may say it does not all appear authentic to what occurred, the same can be said for dramas about white people in history. Kelvin Harrison Jr. gives a heartfelt performance in Chevalier with emotional layers that bring the character and film to glorious life. A movie entertaining and teaching a purposefully obscured person or moment in history is worth watching on both fronts. 

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