- Paul Gallagher
- 6 September 2012
French box office hit about an unlikely relationship between a man and his carer
A colossal hit in its native France, this story, inspired by real events, looks on paper to be the kind of tactless three-hanky issue movie that Hollywood never misses an opportunity to churn out.
Philippe (Francois Cluzet) is a filthy-rich aristocrat and wheelchair-bound quadriplegic, living in his Paris mansion surrounded by efficient, silent staff. When Driss (Omar Sy), an impoverished, street-smart and freshly homeless drifter, makes a token appearance – purely to authorise his benefit – at an interview for the position of Philippe’s carer, Philippe decides Driss is just the kind of person he needs. ‘That’s what I want’, he says: ‘no pity’. It’s clear that this odd couple are being set up to learn some life lessons while the audience laughs, cries and has its big ol’ heart well and truly warmed.
But co-writer/directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano seem very aware of the need to temper their story’s susceptibility to emotional button-pushing, and Untouchable’s overall tone is lighter – and considerably funnier – than its subject matter might lead you to assume. Sy, who combines Idris Elba’s muscles and Lenny Henry’s grin, has perfect comic timing, bringing a natural energy to Driss’s irreverent and hilarious backchat at Philippe, while Cluzet (from 2006’s Tell No One) gives a necessarily understated performance that never fishes for pity – he mostly keeps his face as still as the rest of his body, allowing the audience to take their own reading of Philippe’s interior life from his world-weary eyes.
Nakache and Toledano’s script has some problems in the third act, relying on predictable plotting in an attempt to trump up some very forced dramatic tension, but this is worth seeing for Cluzet and Sy; they are a great screen double-act, offering a believable relationship that’s funny and moving in all the right ways.
General release from Fri 21 Sep.