TIFF 2022 Review: ‘Chevalier’ – A Lively Look at an Unsung Historical Figure

LV Taylor reviews Stephen Williams's Chevalier, starring Kelvin Harrison Jr., Samara Weaving, Lucy Boyton, Minnie Driver, Marton Csokas, Sian Clifford, Alex Fitzalan and Ronke Adekoluejo. Searchlight Pictures' Chevalier is in theaters April 7, 2023.
User Rating: 8.5

Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the French Creole virtuoso violinist, conductor, and classical composer in Paris. Please don’t feel bad; I’d never heard of him either. But director Stephan Williams and writer Stephani Robinson are here to rectify that with their latest historical drama that’s much more than just a biography of a little-known figure who left a major imprint on history (that’s couched in the over-told story of Marie Antoinette’s revolution) — while being Black in France during the lead up to the French Revolution. With that in mind, don’t think it is just another stuffy historical drama or an over-the-top extravagant opus to Marie Antoinette and her reign.

In Robinson’s electrifying story, the Chevalier (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is the illegitimate son of a French nobleman who is afforded all of the perks of his class, but the added pressures of his skin tone and racial background. He is an expert swordsman but an even better violinist and composer who works his way into the great graces of Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton). As the seeds of dissent and revolution begin to sprout, Chevalier falls in love with the unavailable Lady Marie-Josephine (Samara Weaving), much to the chagrin of her husband Montalembert (Marton Csokas). While creating a musical masterpiece to win an appointment to the Paris Opera House, Chevalier’s eyes are opened to the social ills of the masses and his people with the help of his best friend Philippe (Alex Fitzalan), who lights a revolutionary spark that propels Chevalier to change the course of not only his history but of the world (Bologne went on to lead one of the first all-black regimens during the French Revolution).


Chevalier opens with a rousing between conductors — one of which just happens to be a little-known guy by the name of Mozart, and the other is a relatively unknown at the time Joseph Bologne who looks like he doesn’t quite belong in this world. But his audacity, creativity, and passion propel the virtuoso to new heights — much to the dismay of the more well-known Mozart. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie — it crescendos when it needs to, it’s andante at times and allegro at others — but this opening would be nothing without the stellar acting performance that Harrison Jr. gives in this role. He embodies Bologne in such a way that melds the swagger and skill of the virtuoso. Then you add on top of that the cadence of Williams’s directing and Robinson’s script and what you’re left with is a dynamic film that puts it on the same level as Milos Forman’s Amadeus.

The film is sumptuously rendered from the acting of all involved to the beautifully rousing score (by the incomparable Kris Bowers, who is killing the game right now) all the way through to the costume (Oliver Garcia) and production (Karen Murphy) design. But Chevalier is not just beauty and opulence; it’s also introspective and speaks to the cultural times — convenient allyship and “who is France” (which could be a stand-in for America), what do we stand for, and who represents us? It is about defying stereotypes, breaking boundaries, and being true to yourself, all against the backdrop of the cries for “égalité,” which still reverberates today.chevalier

As a former classically trained violinist, I was fascinated by the story of Chevalier — fascinated by this formerly relatively unknown figure from history who did extraordinary things during an extraordinary time. Barring from that, this film isn’t just for classical music lovers –the story, the music and the drama resonates way beyond the cosmetic and history. It’s history come to life in such a way that is entertaining with a pace and intensity that crescendos and draws the viewer in until the very last note.

Chevalier opens in theaters on April 7, 2023.


Written by
LV Taylor is an entertainment attorney, freelance writer and film lover. With previous experience in the music, fashion publishing and sports worlds, LV works with all types of creators and creatives helping to build and protect their brands and artistic visions. It is through this work that LV cultivates her love for film and writing. Her love for film was ignited in middle school as a drama student when she first discovered Turner Classic Movies and fell in love with classic Hollywood. LV is also a budding producer having produced a short film with more in the pipeline. She believes in the power of a beautiful or engaging story that allows one to see the world from a different point of view and speak a common language. LV shares her passion for film and good storytelling through her writing and reviews for sites such as AwardsCircuit.com and Musings of a Streaming Junkie.

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