BY PETER W. SHEEHAN
THE INTOUCHABLES. Starring: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny, and Audrey Fleurot. Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. Rated M (Coarse language and drug use). 112 min.
This subtitled French film tells the story of a very wealthy Parisian, Philippe (Francois Cluzet), who becomes a quadriplegic after a tragic paragliding accident. He comes to be looked after caringly by a Senegalese immigrant, Driss (Omar Sy). The film was the highest-grossing film at the French box-office in the last year, and is based loosely on the autobiographical memoir, You Changed My Life by Abdel Sellou.
Films about unusual attachments across class, as this one is, routinely tap into stories about the growing affection of someone who is well off in life for someone, far less fortunate than themselves, who they choose to help. This film reverses the plot, and is immensely rewarding for doing so. Philippe is disabled, rich, white, and uptight, while Driss is free of constraint, poor, black, and full of life. Despite all these differences, they become close companions.
The film tackles the relationship between the two men with complete intimacy and honesty. Through their unlikely coming together, the friendship between them becomes a celebration of life worth living. In an interaction that starts off awkwardly, their understanding of each other blossoms and matures.
This is a movie that is crafted well. The scripting behind the movie is a little cliché, it plays routinely with racial stereotypes, has some sugary moments, but the film has irresistible charm. For the movie to work, the chemistry between Philippe and Driss must be just right, and it is. Cluzet and Sy complement each other extremely well, and both of them give performances that have great warmth.
The movie carries a strong message about class, disability, and race that deserves to be heard: no matter who people are, or what are their appearances, we should always be open to what others are able to do, and to be. The movie might use comedy to defuse concern about genuine race issues, and it makes (gentle) fun of disability, but it shows inequality happily breaking down for two very different individuals, who bring out the best in each other.
— Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
The Intouchables (Peter W. Sheehan / Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting)