As a film about an epileptic – tree – surgeon – biker who heals people with his hands, One of a Kind is a film that lingers on the edge of the sublime – a French fantasy with the most unlikely of protagonists. Yet Francois Dupeyron’s film addresses its own surreal qualities, combining working class realities with the fantastical in a film that explores themes of healing, redemption and love through a typically French gauze of philosophical dialogue, incidental music and evanescent style.
As a film that initially plays out like a Mike Leigh movie, character Fredi (Gregory Gadebois) is an individual who is down and out, unlucky in love and essentially mute. That is, until a fateful encounter with a child during a motorbike accident. While It was tempting to imagine the film playing out in a psychological study of ‘hit and run’ guilt similar to The Machinist, the film surprisingly takes a turn for the bizarre when Fredi discovers he has inherited his late mothers gift of ‘healing’. As word spreads and his trailer park becomes a beacon for desperate people who have exhausted all other medical options, the film explores Fredi’s relationship with his dysfunctional family, friends and a troubled alcoholic women he meets in a bar (Celine Sallette) – a love interest with deep psychological wounds.
Instead of focusing upon the wider societal reaction or origins of an average man developing Christ – like healing powers, Dupeyron’s approach is an exploration of the responsibilities of coping with such a power, as Fredi’s own desire to non – consensually heal the women he loves being rendered a self – destructive and ultimately selfish act. One of a Kind is also a film that has obligatory didactic passages about love and relationships but can reward you if you invest enough time in it and willingly suspend your disbelief. As a film that is thought provoking, moving and tender it examines individuals suffering with a poignant reality, while its potentially polarising ‘Frenchness’ emerges through its informal style and manic soundtrack, often repeating songs as thematic motifs.
As a film that that combines ‘kitchen sink realism’ with questions about religion and god, One of a Kind was pleasant surprise, accelerated by cast performances and an interesting formal style. While this dichotomy may be unconvincing to some viewers, its ability to draw philosophical questions from the mundane renders it a far more transformative viewing experience than the majority of genre flicks at Edinburgh International 2014 – even if its British equivalent is essentially Ross Kemp emerging as the second coming of Christ.
Director: François Dupeyron
Writer: François Dupeyron
Stars: Grégory Gadebois, Céline Sallette, Jean-Pierre Darroussin
Runtime: 186 min