AN EMPIRE OF WORDS

Untouchable/The Intouchables (2011)

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Untouchable brings together the rather unlikely friendship of Philippe and Driss. The former, a vastly wealthy man bound to his wheelchair due to paralysis from the neck down, the latter a man from the projects. Philippe (played wonderfully by Francios Cluzet) is interviewing for a new carer, with the humdrum of people citing their references at Philippe, and Driss (Again a brilliant performance by Omar Sy), who looks completely out of place in the waiting area, storms in before his name is called. His reason? He is tired of waiting because he is simply wanting a signature so he claim benefit without any interest for the job that he is being interviewed for.

After leaving the supposed interview, an insight to Driss’ life is revealed. He goes home to the projects, a run down block of apartments, where he lives with five or six children running around his feet in a very small apartment. A woman returns, who is assumed to be his mother, is unhappy about the fact he has been missing for six months without hearing from him. Consequently, because of his actions, Driss is kicked out of the apartment.

Driss returns to Philippe’s house for his signature so he can retrieve his benefit, but he is shown around instead of being given his paper. Confused as to what is happening, when he meets Philippe all becomes clear and he is bet that he doesn’t last two weeks caring for Philippe. As it is mentioned that many of the applicants don’t even last a week. This begins their relationship, which shows change, at the beginning a melancholy looking Philippe, is now smiling and laughing with Driss as the rest of the story unfolds. The significance in this relationship is highlighted when Philippe meets with a friend, and says Driss will offer him no pity and Philippe counters that is exactly what he wants.

“That’s exactly it. That’s what I want. No pity.”

Regardless of these ideas that street guys will offer him no pity, Driss becomes compassionate towards Philippe, and genuinely caring for the man. But not only for Philippe, he starts to care for Elisa and her problems, urging Yvonne to try and enjoy herself, especially with the gardener. The companionship that Philippe and Driss form is a real human spirit triumph, in the sense two people from opposite ends of the spectrum can form a bond that good, is impressive. They start to enjoy each other’s company to the point where they become friends, and share details about one another. Ultimately they have a lasting effect on one another.

This effect is that the pair try new things, like Driss, after his earlier astonishment at a painting being sold for 41,500€, begins to paint himself. He manages to paint one and even sells it for 11,000€, with the help of Philippe, but Driss has an effect on Philippe also, with letter relationship with Eléonore. It seems odd to Driss how they only converse through letters, so being proactive, he phones her up and puts Philippe on the phone, much to Philippe’s dismay, but it begins the next step in that relationship. Now Philippe is constantly talking to Eléonore, so much so, that Driss comments that he’s a chatterbox.

The tale of this pair's friendship is wonderful.

This relationship between Driss and Philippe, has all sorts of value to it, but one of them is a comedic value. Mainly because of Driss’ mannerisms towards Philippe, from handing him the phone, to tell him he should be throwing snowballs back. But this involved with the real care that Driss uses with Philippe shows the relationship is something to be cherished also, as is evident when Philippe becomes melancholy again when switching through carers, after Driss leaves with family matters that need to be resolved.

It’s such a genuine film, and it being based on a true story (even though it would’ve been just as enjoyable had it been fictional) the film is such a feel good film. The relationship and bond that Philippe and Driss create and maintain is brilliant. The film all in all, is one to be recommended. The feel good fact of the story, coupled with the humour, the sensitivity shown by Driss towards Philippe regardless of the no pity idea is brilliant. And both of the main roles are wonderfully acted by Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy.

4/5

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Author: Nathan Harris

Currently studying Film & Television studies and Media Writing at Derby University. Hopefully wanting to become a film critic/journalist.

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