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Sunday 15 April 2012

Les Intouchables (France 2011), Film written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, 8*  out of 10

In his latest book, The Upside of Irrationality, the rising star in the field of behavioural economics, Professor Dan Ariely, quotes research on the psychological phenomenon of adaptation. People who had an accident that left them in a wheelchair and others who has just won a large prize in a lottery fill in surveys about their personal happiness. Initially subjective happiness of the lottery winner and the unhappiness of the injured people are - as one would expect- far apart. A year later there is still a significant difference, but the result is much closer. The explanation for this is the phenomenon of human adaptation, both to positive and negative events in people's lives. A powerful way in which nature has equipped us with the ability to cope.

Philippe (François Cluzet) is a successful entrepreneur who has become tetraplegic. He is interviewing candidates for the position of in-house carer. Driess (played by the French/Senegalese rapper Omar Sy), a petty criminal from the Paris banlieues is among the candidates. He hopes to be rejected so that he can continue to collect unemployment benefit. The last thing he wants to be is a carer for a tetraplegic. But he finds himself taken on for a trial period. From unpromising beginnings the relationship between the demanding employer and his troublesome new employee evolves to offer unanticipated opportunities and problems for both parties. Will it change them for good or just be a passing episode before each returns to their life before they met?

The plot for this film provides an unlikely  premise for a feel-good comedy-drama let alone the cult film of the year in France where 52% of French adults have seen it in the cinema. Les Intouchables (The Intouchabes) has also become an unexpected hit outside the French-speaking world, subtitles and all.

Les Intouchables is based on a true story. It is very well written and the writer/directors present the story with humour and intelligence so that this film holds the audience interest. It is a moving film that never resorts to pathos. Strong performances by Cluzet and Sy add to this enjoyable mix. Definitely worth a visit.

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