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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Demonstrates how racism and prejudice can ruin someone's prospects and deny them of happiness, but also how a person (particularly a person of color) can be true to themselves and thrive even when they're being mistreated. The Chevalier's life is one of perseverance, courage, determination, and perfecting your gifts through practice and exploration.
Positive Role Models
The Chevalier is disciplined, talented, and committed to his fencing and musical careers. He's confident to the point of arrogance, but it feels warranted given his skill. He also engages in an affair with a married woman, but it's a consensual and loving relationship. After a crushing disappointment, he learns to explore his cultural roots and reinvent himself. Marie-Josephine is a talented singer, a loving, intelligent woman who recognizes that she has little agency in her marriage and social station.
Predominantly Black filmmaking crew, including star, director, writer, producers, classical musical arranger, original score composer, and violin soloist responsible for the Chevalier's solos. The Chevalier's identity as a biracial French Creole whose mother was enslaved on his father's plantation is a large part of the story and impacts all areas of his life. The women in his life -- his lover, Marie-Josephine, and mother, Nanon -- have little agency because they must do what the men in their lives say (and, in the case of the enslaved Nanon, she's unseen until she's freed). The story promotes knowledge of a man little known outside of classical music circles.
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Violence & Scariness
A military officer orders six men to break all the fingers on a man's hands, only to stop at the last minute. An enslaved Black woman is held back forcefully by White men. An armed man points a gun at the Chevalier and has men hold him but doesn't end up shooting. Crowds push and shove, shouting "liberté" and other words of protest. One character threatens another by showing him his personal cannon. Reference to infanticide.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Several scenes involving an extramarital affair show two people kissing passionately, both in bed and out of it. Love scenes aren't explicit, but there are quite a few of them. Characters are usually partially undressed (bare shoulders, legs, and backs and a man's chest are seen). One character propositions another, making suggestive comments about his "large ... talents"; he declines her invitation.
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Racial slurs: "monkey," "ape," "trained monkey," "pet," "Negro bastard," and more.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink at several parties (wine, champagne) and meals. The Chevalier drinks to excess, one time straight from the bottle.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Chevalier is a biographical drama about the 18th century musician who was once hailed as "Black Mozart," though his music isn't well known today outside of classical music circles. Kelvin Harrison Jr. stars as Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a biracial French Creole violinist, composer, and fencing champion. The movie, which has a mostly Black crew (director, writer, producers, composers, and more), includes scenes in which characters use racist slurs ("Negro bastard," "ape," "trained monkey," and more). There's also some violence: An enslaved woman is forcefully held by White men, fencing with swords leads to bloody wounds, armed men beat a man and are on the brink of breaking his fingers, and a man is known to have killed a baby that wasn't his. Scenes show a couple in bed, with passionate kissing, implied extramarital sex, suggestive comments, partial nudity (backs, legs, a man's chest, etc.), and an unplanned pregnancy. Characters drink, sometimes to excess. Although not all of the scenes in the film are fact-based, it's mostly drawn from the Chevalier's real life. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Harrison gives an outstanding performance in this tribute to the first major Black composer in classical music history. In Chevalier, director Stephen Williams, working from a script by writer and producer Stefani Robinson, has made a movie that is at once historical and incredibly current, exploring themes of imperialism, paternalism, racism, and Black excellence. Harrison, who's been remarkable in other dramas such as Cyrano, Luce, Waves, and Monster, continues to impress in a role that was seemingly tailor-made for him. He infuses the attractive, arrogant Chevalier with swagger that simmers with intensity. Joseph can't handle being anything but the best, because it's what he believes he must be -- even as his freed mother, Nanon (Ronke Adekoluejo), tries to explain that no matter how much he cozies up to the French elite (even the queen herself), he will still be Black first.
The story's adulterous romance is excused by Marie-Josephine's lack of agency in her marriage to a stern, bloodthirsty marquis. She's smart, beautiful, and kind, and she quickly becomes the Chevalier's muse. But the most interesting part of the story is its somewhat rushed third act, when, after a dramatic setback, Joseph starts to listen to his mother, explore the small Black community of Paris, and get in touch with his true self, not just his performative self. There are a few missteps in the movie -- a particularly preachy monologue by Marie-Josephine seems out of character and place -- but Harrison is such an electrifying actor that audiences will undoubtedly want to know more about the real Chevalier. The mostly Black principal crew, it should be noted, includes Juilliard-trained Black violinist Clayton Penrose-Whitmore, who performs the solo in the final big music scene. That commitment to authenticity deserves applause. The drama, and the composer's music on the score, will hopefully raise awareness about an artist and man whose name should be much more than a footnote in music history.
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