It is always quite interesting to see how a foreign film does in an Anglophone environment. Sadly, more often than not the language barrier undermines the real potential of a movie, thanks to badly translated jokes and unfortunate cultural misunderstandings.
It is true, however, that in the last few years Hollywood has been increasingly accepting of overseas productions – and from France in particular. Perhaps thanks to a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, French films have been steadily conquering the global cinema industry, leading to runaway successes that receive critical acclaim and go on to sweep honours and rewards in award ceremonies (La Vie en Rose and The Artist, anyone?).
Now France strikes back, this time with a vulnerable comedy that is already generating Oscar buzz. While everyone was still raving about tap-dancing and the revival of silent movies, Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache had already for a while released Untouchable, now one of France’s top high-grossing films of all time that has generated to date £225 million worldwide.
…the true story of the unlikely friendship…
Released in the UK a few weeks ago, it tells the true story of the unlikely friendship between Philippe (François Cluzet), a wealthy middle-aged Parisian who became quadriplegic following a paragliding accident, and his young struggling carer Driss (Omar Sy), who comes from a broken home in the French banlieues and only applied to work for Philippe to be able to keep claiming income support.
The film is based on the experience of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Sellou, the real-life pair that defied what could be seen as limits to a long-lasting friendship. Both have their own disadvantage and yet the duo’s reciprocal need of one another helped them shift focus from what hinders them in life to what makes them able to survive together. Together they are untouchable.
…hard-hitting themes with irreverent humour…
So far, the film has been receiving mixed reviews in Britain. While some praise the way the directors deal with hard-hitting themes with irreverent humour, others condemn the film’s crowd-pleasing ingredients that seem to make it far too predictable.
Once again, Untouchable is another one of those cases where the cultural clash will probably prevent the British public to fully appreciate some of the film’s most endearing nuances. However, this should not discourage Britons to watch Toledano and Nakache’s moving account of nothing simpler than a friendship.
…a positive mood that makes the viewer focus on the beauty of Driss and Philippe’s friendship…
There are, indeed, deeper themes involved – disability, poverty, race – but the directors chose to create a positive mood that makes the viewer focus on the beauty of Driss and Philippe’s friendship, rather than on their misery. Theirs might be a simplistic approach whereby love (of any form) conquers all, but the truth is that the film doesn’t aim to be anything other than an optimistic, feel-good comedy. And a great one at that.