The Intouchables (2011) Review

I don’t often get the chance to take in foreign cinema, but in the case of The Intouchables, I’m reminded of why I enjoy every opportunity to watch something fairly magical unfold on the screen. Sure, it sounds cheesy, but I have to say, the more foreign films I see, the more I find that I truly enjoy.

The Intouchables, written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano, is a total wild card, and it works in ways that are completely indescribable. The sense of purity and genuinity is evident throughout the film, and is wholeheartedly embraced by the audience. The Intouchables is based on the true-life events of Philippe (François Cluzet), a wealthy quadriplegic, and Driss (Omar Sy), a young man with a troubled background, who Philippe hires as his caretaker. The film follows the interesting relationship that develops between these two men – one of mutual respect and true friendship.

While the foreign reception of this movie has been overwhelmingly successful, the stateside opinions of this movie have been fairly varied, most of which find this movie to be racist, demeaning, or otherwise offensive. I feel as though these opinions are somewhat ridiculous, as the movie itself doesn’t ever make race an issue; unless you are trying to read into the fact that the white man is rich and the black man is poor, these men are more peers that initially meets the eye. The unexpected companionship of these two men results in fantastic comedic opportunities, and not only are they hilarious, but they are touching and emotionally raw.

The true magic in this film shines through by way of the incredible acting talent, and their obvious fervor for their craft. It is no surprise that both actors were awarded the honor of Best Actor at the 2011 Tokyo International Film Festival; additionally, Omar Sy’s performance as Driss helped him to edge out Jean Dujardin (The Artist) for the César Award for Best Actor. It is rare to find two individuals that have the connection that Sy and Cluzet share on screen, and their interaction is wholly refreshing.

This and the remaining components of the movie all seamlessly work together to provide a satisfying backdrop for the heartwarming story. At one point, Philippe’s lawyer displays concern over the choice of Driss as Philippe’s caretaker, due to his questionable background. Philippe indicated that such was of no concern, and he was merely grateful to be treated as a person, not as someone with a disability.

While I understand that many American viewers will maintain a perception that this movie is offensive on some level, I feel as though the way we as Americans view race is severely different from those in other countries. While I don’t consider myself an expert or “advocate” for awareness of racial discrimination, I find that the perpetuation of such through the media is unacceptable. Still, I think that this movie warrants an open mind, as it ventures beyond the obvious issues, and touches on a level of humanity that surpasses the pulling of the racism card.

To be quite honest, this movie was probably one of the best movies I have seen all year. From a fantastic cast to an emotionally touching story that doesn’t get lost or muddled in translation, The Intouchables has leaped its way to the top of my list for possible Oscar nominations (which isn’t a far stretch of the imagination). I would definitely recommend this as a movie to put on your “must see” list – I don’t think you will be disappointed.

The Intouchables – 9/10

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