The Intouchables

A French film with English subtitles, I can’t imagine anyone seeing a more satisfying, humane film this year.

The IntouchablesThe Intouchables is a French film that is beguiling, inspiring and at times very funny. As many of you know, its principal stars are Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy, and they are both spectacular as complete opposites who rediscover meaning in life as a result of their frequently idiotic yet mesmerizing relationship

Mr. Cluzet plays Philippe, a wealthy aristocrat who is paralyzed from the neck down as a result of a paragliding accident. Needing intensive care 24 hours a day while being confined to a wheelchair, he takes a risk and hires his polar opposite, Driss, a black Parisian living largely by his wits. Philippe has lost nearly all interest in living, and Driss represents the one possible employee who will not patronize him.

To be quite honest, the story initially unfolds in a less than appealing fashion. While Philippe finds Driss amusing, you literally don’t know Driss’ motivation. He has a bit of a criminal history, and Driss at times seems interested in little more than simply seeking a quick buck so that he can seduce Cluzet’s female assistants. On the other hand, right when you think you are watching something that is trying to be a bit too clever, it rises to a level that sweeps you off your emotional feet.

While I don’t dare give anything away, let me simply say that Philippe finally discovers a door into a lost magical kingdom. Among other things, Driss introduces him to the benefits of smoking pot, and they both embrace the joy of frivolity.

Though Philippe suffers from the lingering pain caused by the death of his wife to a terminal illness, he dares communicate with another woman only by writing. Driss again steps in, and the movie has an ending that is as splendid as anything you will watch this year.

On top of that is Driss’ complicated involvement in his own world. He has relatives who he has left behind and he gradually rediscovers a way to provide some meaning to their all but nondescript lives. On top of that, he is an extraordinarily funny guy, and you simply have to see the ecstatic sequence where he convinces Philippe’s performing chamber music group to play a song by Earth Wind and Fire. The subsequent dance led by Driss will leave you laughing out loud.

Mr. Sy gives a engrossing performance as Driss, and the audience gradually embraces him along with Mr. Cluzet. The Intouchables finds a way to touch your heart, and the stunning scene where both Driss and Sy are hang gliding through the mountains is a moment of utter visual joy. This is a warm, magnificently appealing film that should not be missed.