Untouchable

12 Nov

Director: Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano (2011)

untouchableIs there much comedy in the story of a man paralysed by a tragic paragliding accident? Yes. So much comedy. In one of the most hilariously touching films I’ve seen in years, Untouchable is one of those rare treats that surprises, moves and affects in every scene.
Opening with a high speed car chase through the streets of Paris, Driss (Omar Sy) is pulled over by the police. Turning to his companion Philippe (François Cluzet) beside him, he claims to be able to get them an escort. He then proceeds to use his friends paraplegia to get him out of a speeding fine, a ruse helped along as Philippe feigns a seizure to hurry the process along.

The audience is stunned into silence. For the briefest of moments. As the music kicks in the twosome veer off into the night and so begins a wonderful two-hour journey into the lives of two polar opposites living within and beyond their own diversities in a beautiful friendship.
Told through flashback, Untouchable follows Philippe, a rich quadriplegic, in high stunning Parisian mansion on his search for a live-in carer. Choosing the most disinterested, cocky and obnoxious candidate, only there to get a signature on his jobseekers benefit form, we immediately see a similar mischievous quality in Philippe and soon begin to see why these two men bond so quickly.

Touching on the obvious physical difficulties of caring for someone in such a way, from bathing and dressing to feeding and, of course, changing, this is a world away from his previous life for Driss. Philippe takes great pleasure in seeing Driss challenged but similarly enjoys watching his determination not to be deemed a failure – as usual. In a typical formula, both men have something to gain and to give – for Driss, he needs to learn to work and commit to something, for Philippe, he needs to learn to live for each moment. So far, so standard, but where Untouchable excels and expands this dichotomous relationship is in its unabashed treatment of the humour that inevitably arises from such intimate friendships.

A shameless flirt and talented artist, Driss is unleashed in the mansion, finally given the space he needs to create and a bathtub, a luxury he never had while sharing a small one-room flat with his extended family. Wickedly humorous but quietly resigned to his fate trapped in a wheelchair, Philippe masks his loneliness, keeping a secret epistolary romance with the help of his assistant, Magalie. When Driss finds out, there are some obvious skill shares this lothario can help out with… But rather than blazing in with the clichéd and forced montages of liberation, Untouchable focuses on the way the two men relax with one another as their working relationship develops, allowing their ways to seep into their own behaviours – as Driss displays his paintings and Philippe meets his lady penpal.

Music features heavily throughout the film, extending beyond merely being a soundtrack; Philippe’s love of classical music teaches Driss about the beauty of order and skill while Driss’ obsession with Boogie Wonderland and Earth Wind and Fire brings energy and movement into Philippe’s life, allowing him to live vicariously through Driss’ dancing – one of the best scenes in the film. Aside from the shaving scene but I will leave that for you to enjoy…

Completely life affirming in every way.

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