Thursday, 30 May 2013

Film Review | Untouchable [Intouchables] (2012)

We're a cynical bunch, us Brits. At least that's how we \apparently like to be seen. If a film isn't showing us the gritty, harsh and brutal side of life in graphic detail through gloomy lighting and a bleached palette, then it must immediately be dismissed as corny and saccharine, a twee and flimsy effort unworthy of our time. Just take the reviews from Empire and Total Film of Untouchable: both magazines give it short shrift, seeing the film as a sappy French fancy for the reviewer to arrogantly dismiss. After reading both reviews (which took approximately a minute and a half - not each, but for both in total) I genuinely feel like I watched a different film.

Admittedly, Untouchable doesn't necessarily break new ground, with Philippe (François Cluzet) and Driss (Omar Sy) forming a classic odd couple: the former a wealthy aristocrat paralysed from the neck down due to a paragliding accident, the latter a young black man from the Parisian suburbs hired to be his carer despite his lack of experience, unsympathetic nature and criminal record. The two form a close bond, with Driss reigniting Philippe's "joie de vivre" whilst learning a few lessons of his own. If this was pure fiction, the set-up might feel a little on-the-nose, but the fact that the story is based on real events alleviates that for the most part.

That said, it would be easy for writing-directing duo Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano to make Untouchable a sugar-soaked shallow mess. Thankfully, that's not the case. The direction, whilst never astounding, is solid and allows the story to be told through the warm and natural dialogue and, above all, the brilliant performances from Cluzet and Sy. Individually both men infuse their characters with authenticity and likability, however it's the chemistry between the two that is the driving force behind the film. The conversations between the pair feel as though you are watching two real-life friends, and there are several irresistibly heartwarming and memorable moments throughout.

Thanks to its perpetual feel-good tone and positive outlook, it's true that Untouchable may avoid focusing upon some of the more unpleasant aspects of both men's lives - we see Driss spending time with some unsavoury characters at moments throughout the film, but these scenes never attempt to tackle the social problems inherent in what we are being shown. Nor are we ever shown much at all of the less pleasant side of Philippe's quadriplegia. But the lightness of touch and honesty within the characters means that this is unlikely to detract from your enjoyment of what is a genuinely entertaining and funny film. Lovers of gritty and depressing cinema, look elsewhere: Untouchable is endlessly optimistic and simply joyous.


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