France’s 2013 Academy Award® entry for Best Foreign Film; Best Actor, Cesar Awards 2012; Best Actor, Tokyo Grand Prix Award, Tokyo International Film Festival 2011; Audience Award, Sarajevo Film Festival 2012 and Wisconsin Film Festival 2012; Best European Film, David di Donatello Awards 2012
Based on the true story of an unlikely odd couple who give each other a new lease on life, this French comedy-drama is almost irresistibly engaging. So it's no wonder that it's taken the international box office by storm, becoming the most successful French film in history, and the second biggest non-English box-office hit in history (behind The Passion of the Christ). Thankfully, its sparky sense of humour keeps the heartwarming story from becoming too sentimental. And the cast is enormously likeable.
The film is about Philippe (Cluzet), a wealthy Parisian who can't cope with the way everyone condescends to him as a paraplegic. Which makes hiring a full-time carer very difficult until he sees the inexperienced tough guy Driss (Sy), who only applies for the job to satisfy one of the conditions of collecting his unemployment benefit. But Driss' quick wit and lack of pity appeal to Philippe, who hires him against the wishes of his minders (Le Ny and Fleurot). And sure enough, Driss doesn't fit in at all. But his growing friendship with Philippe earns the respect of the staff.
The central theme here is that compassion, friendship and honesty are often far more important than experience and efficiency. But this is never laid on too heavily in a film that concentrates instead on an unexpected relationship that deepens as these two men confront each other’s' weaknesses. This is often awkward and uncomfortable, but along the way Driss helps Philippe come out of his self-exile, while Philippe gives Driss the self-confidence he needs to get his life back on track. And Cluzet and Sy have such terrific chemistry that we never get tired of watching them bicker and fight even as they make each other (and us) laugh.
The filmmaking is slick and smooth, shaping the true story into a movie structure that sometimes feels rather predictable but has some surprises along the way, including a few massively emotional jolts. And several musical montages build an exhilarating sense of energy that charms us completely. Yes, this is a feel-good movie that ticks all the right boxes. But it may also help us see people with both disability and a disadvantaged background just a bit differently.
Rich Cline, Contactmusic.com
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