“The Intouchables,” introduced by the Lorain Film Society, is a French comedy-drama about survival, compassion, and above all, friendship. The movie tells the story of an aristocrat, who becoming a quadriplegic from a paragliding accident, hires a young man from the projects, living on welfare to be his live-in caretaker.
The film opens with Driss (caregiver), driving Phillipe at high speed. They are being chased by the police. When the police pull them over, Driss asserts that it is an emergency, he is rushing Phillipe to the hospital. Phillipe fakes a seizure, and the result is a police escort to the hospital.
The story then flashes back to when Driss and Phillipe first met. With his assistant, Phillipe is interviewing candidates at his luxurious mansion for the role of his caregiver. Enter the unexpected and unqualified Driss. The insolent young man is not interested in employment. Instead he cuts in line to get Phillipe’s signature to show he was there to be interviewed and rejected in order to continue receiving his welfare benefits. Phillipe tells Driss he must come back the next morning for his signature. Instead of giving the promised signature when Driss returns, Phillipe boldly decides to hire him.
Now employed on a trial basis as a live-in caregiver, Driss learns the extent of Phillipe’s disability as he accompanies Phillipe throughout his day, catering to the demanding physical needs of a quadriplegic. While Driss adjusts to the difficult and constant task of caring for Phillipe, Phillipe learns to put some order and balance in his, and to not be so stiff with his life. Driss shows Phillipe that his life can continue to be an adventure, that being stuck in a wheelchair does not mean he no longer should take chances. Driss encourages Phillipe to contact Eleanore, a woman he has been infatuated with, but that Phillipe has only managed to have an epistolary relationship.
As the friendship grows between Driss and Phillipe, Driss is torn between his new responsibilities and the need to help a cousin who is in trouble with a gang and seeks Driss’ safety. Phillipe takes notice of how important Driss’s need to support his family is, and releases Driss from the job. While Driss takes care of his family, Phillipe searches for other caregivers. But, Phillipe does not take a liking to any of them, or find the rapport he had with Driss. Phillipe becomes depressed and loses interest in his own upkeeping and image. Phillipe’s assistant puts out a call to Driss to return and help out.
Driss arrives and taks Phillipe for a drive, bringing the story back to the first scene of the movie. After giving the police a slip, they continue their road trip to a seaside resort where Driss had made reservations. Driss helps Phillipe get dressed in a fun and poignant scene before going to dinner. The scenic restaurant allows Driss to provide Phillipe with one more lesson. He slips away to let Phillipe meet the woman he’s only known through letters, the woman Phillipe has loved at a distance up until this time.
“The Intouchables” is a humorous and loving story of a unique friendship; a dichotomy of classes brought together in a sensitive and joyful manner. I enjoyed the movie from start to finish. Both characters, despite their faults or differences, create a strong bond of understanding. With exceptional casting, and thought-provoking dialogue, it is no wonder that the film was selected as a best foreign language entry for the 85th Oscars.
I enjoyed the use of Ludovico Einaudi’s music for the soundtrack. His piano sonatas were simple yet effective. I also enjoyed the movie being in French subtitles. I have never been a stranger to foreign films and those that are wouldn’t even feel as if they were reading captions as they engage in the story.