It is safe to say that my March pick for Movie of the Month, a synthesis of a charming French dramedy and unexpected bromance, is already a viable contender as Movie of the Year. Les Intouchables is the moving true story of the relationship that develops between Philippe, a quadriplegic French aristocrat, and Driss, his precocious and arrogant caretaker from the projects. The movie addresses the ironic entitlement of an able-bodied young man who is immobile in society, and an older man who has the means to be mobile in society but is physically immobilized. Viewers quickly learn with the protagonists that being physically, emotionally, or even economically crippled in no way justifies self-entitlement. Philippe and Driss are worlds apart in terms of background, social class, race, and upbringing. However, despite their immediate differences and behind the societal distinctions lie two men who are instinctively similar. They are brought together fortuitously, or by chance, in every sense of the word – by giving the other a chance and by being given a chance.
What is so deeply poignant about Les Intouchables is that it touches upon the sensitive themes of social class distinction, physical and social mobility, assumptions and judgments, health and wealth, and most importantly, the universality of humanity. Thematically, it is a film that will immediately render you speechless, and prompt you to reflect on the portrayal of underlying, taboo issues. Visually, the film is set against the breathtaking and storied backdrop of the sights and sounds of Paris, France. Musically, the soundtrack is enamoring, and certainly a forte of the film. Schematically, the film is laugh-out-loud witty, pleasantly charming, and quick on its toes. If you understand the French language or, at the very least, are undeterred by subtitles, the film is an honest and lighthearted portrayal of humanity. Les Intouchables, directly translates into English as The Intouchables, which appears at first to be confusing and nonsensical. However, viewers will realize the movie is aptly named because the characters start out guarded and seemingly untouchable, but their inner beings – and as a result their entire lives – end up being deeply touched and affected by one another. At its core, the film is an aide-mémoire of the interconnectedness of humanity, and it reminds me of a quote by Mitch Albom:
“That each affects the other, and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.”