Warm sensation – The Intouchables review

The Intouchables – Starring François Cluzet and Omar Sy. Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. Rated M. By Jess Lomas.

All other contenders for feel-good film of the year can pack up and head home because in writer-directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano’s comedy drama The Intouchables we’ve found a winner. Having already broken box office records in France, it is now the country’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.

Based on a true story, the picture focuses on the relationship between a quadriplegic millionaire, Philippe (François Cluzet), and his new caregiver from the projects Driss (Omar Sy). The two are polar opposites and their differences provide the perfect ingredients for a heartfelt discovery of the power of friendship. In each other they find what they have been seeking for so long; Driss doesn’t pity Philippe’s disability and forces him to engage with life and women again, while Philippe provides Driss with a haven from his destructive environment and teaches him the importance of good, honest work.

The strength of this feature lies in the chemistry between Cluzet and Sy, whose performances are affecting and realistic. The film doesn’t dwell too long on the negatives, with Driss’ complicated family situation, crime and drug issues receiving nominal screen time; The Intouchables is instead largely focused on the influence of friendship and redemption in transforming one’s life. Music is also used to emphasise the change in mood and time with Philippe’s love of classical composers juxtaposed with Driss’ favourite band, Earth, Wind & Fire, adding to a diverse and uplifting soundtrack.

The movie has been criticised by some for several reasons, including a particular scene in which Driss is testing his new employer’s disability by pouring hot coffee on his legs. Philippe remains, of course, unaware, and in any other film this might be viewed as offensive. But with the charm on display from both Cluzet and Sy, the moment comes off simply as humorous and cheeky, and clearly no malice is intended. It’s simply the beginning in a string of fish-out-of-water situations that shape these two and their relationship, and lead to equally amusing scenes, including Driss’ first time at the opera and a joy ride that culminates in a car chase and an elaborate hoax.

The Intouchables is a crowd pleaser; an honest and thought provoking story that tugs at the heartstrings and soars on the performances by its leads. It’s no surprise Harvey Weinstein has already lined it up for an American remake.

4.5/5

The Intouchables arrives in Australian cinemas October 25, 2012.

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