Westport Film Club’s spring season kicks off on Wednesday, February 6, with a screening of the French film ‘Untouchable’.
Nine weeks after its release in France on November 2, 2011, ‘Untouchable’ became the the country’s second-biggest box-office hit. Based on a true story, it explores the unlikely friendship between millionaire paraplegic Philippe and his ex-prisoner carer Driss, played by François Cluzet and Omar Sy, respectively.
The film deals with hard-hitting themes, such as class, race, poverty and disability, but it manages to retain an optimistic outlook and offers plenty of laughs along the way. Despite the fact that the humour is largely built on social and racial stereotypes (Philippe is conservative, listens to classical music and enjoys the opera, while Driss is impulsive, flirtatious and dances to Kool & The Gang and Earth, Wind & Fire), ‘Untouchable’ is ultimately a film about friendship.
Indeed it is Driss and Philippe’s friendship that enables each of their characters to flourish, enhancing and enriching both of their previously otherwise-mundane lives.
Philippe, a widower paralysed from the neck down after a paragliding accident, admits that his ‘real handicap is living without love’. Through his companionship with Driss, who never pities him, Philippe slowly learns to acknowledge his loneliness, opens up and starts to enjoy himself and his life once more. Both characters serve to teach each other important life lessons, broadening not only their minds, but also their horizons.
Driss comes from an impoverished area which looks cold and bleak in contrast to Philippe’s polished and luxurious mansion, where, away from drugs, violence and poverty he catches a glimpse of what life is like on the other side. He is introduced to modern art, opera and even takes up painting, discovering he is quite good at it. Throughout the course of the film, both Philippe’s and Driss’s comfort zones and ideals are challenged, helping them to gain knowledge, friendship and a new perspective on life.
The film’s huge success overseas and in France can undoubtedly be attributed to the remarkable performances of both François Cluzet and Omar Sy, who bring warmth and compassion to their occasionally clichéd characterisations. The result is an uplifting and thoroughly enjoyable discovery of a friendship that however unlikely, is nonetheless charming and inspirational.
Rachel Maguire is a member of Westport Film Club. ‘Untouchable’ will be screened at Westport Cineplex on Wednesday, February 6, at 8.45pm. Everybody welcome; tickets to each film for non-members are €10.