During the last fortnight, Intouchables has taken France by storm – and by surprise! From its blurb, the story of a rich quadriplegic (played by François Cluzet) who hires as his carer an ex-convict (Omar Sy) from the disadvantaged suburbs, promises to be a feel-good, heart-warming film about two difficult social issues: disability and class divisions.
But the film takes these difficult themes, strips them of their complications and gives us just two main characters, Phillipe and Driss. They both refuse to take the other seriously; Phillipe hires Driss in spite of his criminal record and disinterest, and Driss affectionately ridicules Phillipe’s situation, refusing to let it be a barrier – to fast cars, smoking...and many other things!
However the film is also undeniably feel-good. So, I shed a couple of tears (ssh, don’t mock!) yet I still came out of the cinema with a silly grin on my face. But careful, or politically correct? Far from it! At every point, this film shies away from sensitivity and Sy’s character Driss ignores every unwritten rule in the carers’ handbook. When Phillipe asks for one of Driss’ chocolates, the answer he gets is, ‘No. No arms, no chocolate’! Out of context, it’s shocking, but the way the two characters interact makes it irresistibly funny. This is the film’s great achievement: it dares to ignore the politically correct line and in doing so, recaptures the reality and humour of personal interactions. I’ve never known a cinema audience laugh so loudly and genuinely.
Another aspect of this film which remains with you is its soundtrack. From Earth, Wind and Fire to Vivaldi, it’s an interesting mix. Another gem of a scene is Phillipe is trying to find a classical song that Driss recognises. And Omar Sy’s amazing dancing has to be seen to be believed!
Perhaps what surprises me most is that this is a French language film. It is usually only American imports which get people talking, but this film appeals to old and young alike. Already a run-away success in France, it’s hardly surprising that an American remake is already on the cards. But the original, Intouchables, is set to be released in 40 countries around the world in March and I highly recommend it.