Chevalier review: "A lush but solidly conventional operatic drama"

Chevalier (2023)
(Image: © Searchlight Pictures)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

More handsome than heartfelt, this operatic drama reclaiming a Black virtuoso needs to loosen its corsets a tad.

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

"I hope this won’t be embarrassing for you," laughs Mozart (Joseph Prowen), before cocky challenger Joseph Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) bests him in an electrifying contest of duelling violins, bringing the wowed Paris Opera audience to its feet. 

No doubt about it, Stephen Williams’ (Watchmen, Lost) biopic of the remarkable 18th-century Black composer, swordsman, and playboy boasts a stunning opener. Shame, though, that it promises an excitement the rest of this lush but solidly conventional drama can’t always deliver. 

Whisking the charmingly arrogant Bologne through an ambitious attempt to win a top job by composing an opera for Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton), the film works hard to show his glittering success as fatally compromised by his outsider status: however outstanding Bologne is with a bow or a blade, below the applause lies relentless racism. 

But the tender, tragic vibe Williams tries for via our hero’s forbidden affair with aristo soprano Marie-Josephine (a brittle Samara Weaving) feels too speedily set up to be truly effective. It doesn’t help that the latter’s pistol-brandishing husband, the Marquis de Montalembert (Marton Csokas) is something of a cookie-cutter villain. 

A fine, nuanced performance from Harrison Jr., showing the brooding strive under the swagger (the opposite of his sweetness in 2021’s Cyrano), holds your attention as Bologne stalks lavishly costumed balls and parties, exchanging elegant insults. He’s nicely suave where the rest of this elegant movie feels a bit stiff, lacking that Marie Antoinette or The Favourite period playfulness that would suit Bologne’s genuinely revolutionary life.

Chevalier is in UK cinemas on June 9. Read our interviews with stars Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Lucy Boynton here.

For more upcoming films, check out our 2023 movie release dates.

More info

Freelance Writer

Kate is a freelance film journalist and critic. Her bylines have appeared online and in print for GamesRadar, Total Film, the BFI, Sight & Sounds, and