Untouchable washes up on British shores after capturing hearts in cinemas across the continent and, with its tremendous humour and affecting drama, it’s sure to have our stiff upper lips stretched with delight and quivering with emotion.
Co-written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, and backed by the might of Hollywood powerhouse Harvey Weinstein, Untouchable is an improbable buddy movie based on the true story of a rich quadriplegic and his underprivileged, streetwise carer.
Philippe (François Cluzet), the aforementioned debonair Parisian aristocrat, tragically lost his wife and was paralysed from the neck down following a horrendous paragliding accident. After coming to terms with the unbelievable trauma of the event, it is the mundanity of a lacklustre existence rather than his infirmity that renders him unhappy. A queue of credible candidates with a host of relevant qualifications line up outside his office to become his new carer, but one sticks out like a sore thumb: Driss (the affable Omar Sy), a towering street urchin from the Parisian projects who had only applied for the job in order to appease his dole assignments. Philippe happens to take a chance on the wisecracker, if only to spark temporary change in his life, and, to the surprise of them both, an extra-ordinary friendship prospers.
The depiction of disability in cinema is a curious subject. Often severely morose or vehicles for thespians to demonstrate their talents with shameful bravura, such films can come across cringe-worthy and clichéd; you may remember Ben Stiller’s character in Tropic Thunder crassly undertaking a role as a “retard” in the hope of winning an Oscar. Although not an earnest study of the semantics of Hollywood, the film does – ironically – shines a light on the film industry’s penchant for poor taste. Thankfully, in Untouchable, Philippe’s physical isolation is not a mere tool to extract floods of tears from an audience. The film is terrifically funny. Driss and Philippe become an unlikely double act whose mischievous antics will generate a wave of belly laughs.
Untouchable is the third impressive feature to deal with paralysis in recent years following Alejandro Amenábar’s The Sea Inside of 2004 and Julian Schnabel The Diving Bell And The Butterfly of 2007. It may lack the artistry of its antecedents, but Nakache and Toledano have made a hugely enjoyable, mainstream frolic that does not disappoint. A symbiotic relationship forms between the two main characters, as Driss’ street façade gives way to compassion and Philippe rediscovers exuberance in life. It may be borderline corny but there’s no doubting that it’s wholehearted and hilarious.
Director: Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache
Cast: François Cluzet, Omar Sy
Runtime: 113 min