Written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, The Intouchables is a film about an unlikely companionship that ignores all barriers. Race, class, age and disability: they mean nothing to this odd couple. Philippe (Francois Cluzet) is a wealthy quadriplegic who is seeking a new live-in carer. Driss (Omar Sy) attends the job interview in order to get a signature for his government welfare payment. During this rather unusual meeting Driss manages to hit on Philippe’s secretary, steal a Fabergé egg and provide references such as “Kool and the Gang” and “Earth, Wind and Fire”. In fact, the pair’s opposing taste in music is a perfect way to envision their friendship. Driss likes funk: he’s cool and relaxed, everything’s a joke to him. Philippe however enjoys the likes of Chopin, Schubert and Berlioz and so is reserved, strict and proper. Philippe, struck by the breath of fresh air that is Driss, decides to give him a one-month trial as his carer, and so begins their mutually educating friendship.
For those of us whose hearts are made of flint, it’s often a guilty pleasure to watch a feel-good movie such as this. If you’re like me and can’t ignore a films technical flaws even as it makes your chest swell with emotion, then you will love The Intouchables. Its a feel-good movie, to be sure, but it doesn’t compromise. It has none of the usual failings of its genre: its beautifully shot, written and performed. Considering Philippe is paralysed from the neck down, Cluzet gives a very impressive performance. He manages to convey such a wide spectrum of emotions using only his face and, in his darker moments, you get a real sense of the claustrophobia suffered by someone in his position. Sy is also a joy to watch; he’s a typical free-spirit, helping everyone he meets and not backing down until he gets a result.
The one problem I had with the film was with its periphery characters and their sub-plots. Driss’ son/younger brother (I was confused which it was) gets involved with a gang, and Philippe’s adopted daughter has romantic trouble, and while there are some enjoyable moments that stem from these events, they ultimately feel rather shallow and unnecessary. It’s a small quibble and certainly not irritating enough to dampen the rest of the film.
Around the midpoint of this type of movie, you get the sense that before the inevitably happy ending, things are going to get pretty grim. With The Intouchables you stop trying to second-guess and pigeon-hole the plot and you just… watch it. The films central relationship is satisfyingly complex and gripping and remains so throughout. Driss and Philippe’s comedic timing is perfect, ensuring that very little of the humour is lost in translation. Most importantly, The Intouchables has an ending that will leave you teary-eyed but fulfilled, rather than drowning in a pool of cringe-inducing, happy-ending clichés.
With The Artist being the big winner at last years Oscars, it seems France is on a roll with funny, charismatic and original films. While unlikely to be quite as successful, The Intouchables could certainly be heading (pun so very intended) toward a best foreign film win. It’s genuinely funny, aesthetically crisp, thought-provoking, emotional, heart-warming and as far as feel-good comedies go, The Intouchables is truly untouchable (I regret nothing).
4.5 out of 5
“I see humour is like music to you. You don’t know anything about it.” – Driss