The Intouchables

The Intouchables is one of those films whose essence is almost impossible to capture in writing. The allure and splendor of the humor and relationship between Philippe (Francois Cluzet) and Driss (Omar Sy) is one that has to be seen to truly be appreciated. That being said, I will do my best to convince you to see this extremely heartwarming tale of friendship and acceptance.


Due to an unfortunate paragliding accident, Philippe is confined to a wheelchair with control of only his head. Thanks to a rich family history he has all the financial security he needs to hire an appropriate staff and keep his health stabilized. Driss is a product of the projects that would rather survive on get-rich-quick schemes, such as abusing welfare, than actually be gainfully employed. When he “applies” for the position as Philippe’s caretaker, he ends up working a lot more than he had anticipated (along with getting top-notch furnishings).

Based on a true story, albeit changed slightly since the actual caretaker is Arab, not black, The Intouchables finds humor in a moderately dark, yet altogether realistic setting. For an adventurous fellow like Philippe, losing all sense of freedom and mobility would seem like the most soul-sucking event in his life, but as we learn more about his struggles and how acclimated to tragedy he has had to become, we notice there is so much more to the story than a man simply expanding outside his comfort zone. Meanwhile, Driss has a troubled childhood and early adulthood that is only mildly mentioned, but is given enough explanation that we can sense his emotions.

At the core of the film, though, and within the title, is the emphasis on social boundaries. Handicapped individuals are essentially no different from those of us who do not have an apparent handicap, so the inherent urge to show pity and compassion no doubt wears on them. Therefore, when Driss treats Philippe like an average human—even handing him the phone as if the man could pick it up normally—all boundaries are broken and the chance for a real relationship begins.

On the other side, Driss comes from a bad neighborhood in a somewhat discriminatory city. He has the struggle of being an African immigrant in a lower-income, highly criminalized area with no real chance to break free from the mold. In no way is this an unique plot for a film, but the genuine connection Sy and Cluzet form sets it apart.

Originally, the reviews I read for this film stressed the social importance in France as there are race relation issues still resulting from the days of imperialism. While this is a facet of the film, it is by no means a driving force behind the story. If I had not previously heard about this, I would have not even noticed it. Like I said, the driving force is Sy and Cluzet with some excellent help from supporting characters, particularly Yvonne (Anne Le Ny) and Magalie (Audrey Fleurot).

With an amazing soundtrack ripe with Earth, Wind and Fire and classical music, The Intouchables will have you feeling good from start to finish. Since I left the theater in an infinitely better mood than when I entered, I cannot in good conscience give it anything below the A range. There could have been more character depth, but I think enough was included for the film to be satisfactory for anyone.

  1. September 11th, 2012

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