Culture-clash comedy blends with heart-tugging true-life drama in this French box-office hit. François Cluzet (‘Tell No One’) is Philippe, a wealthy man left paralysed from the neck down after an accident. Interviewing worthy types for the job of carer, Philippe is struck by Driss (Omar Sy), a street-smart criminal who’s merely applying in order to receive benefits. Admiring his irreverence, Philippe hires Driss and moves him into his palatial home. Bonding ensues, amid many raised eyebrows.
It’s an enjoyable, if familiar, set-up, recalling ‘Scent of a Woman’ as Driss opens Philippe’s eyes to new worlds (pot smoking, soul music), and vice versa. Both become aware of their privileges: chiefly education and an able body, respectively. There’s also a whiff of ‘The Sound of Music’ as this whirlwind brings a different kind of tune to the household, challenging the way Philippe raises his daughter. Of course, this is not a romance, but a bromance: it’s these two against a world that fails to understand either of them properly.
While ‘Untouchable’ (released in France in 2011 as ‘Intouchables’) is based on a true story, you sense a good deal of artistic licence – the original carer was an Algerian immigrant, while the film’s Driss is Senegalese. And ‘Untouchable’ leaves itself wide open to criticism of racial stereotyping. As Driss grooves around the mansion, showing the uptight white people how to dance, one is reminded more of an ’80s Hollywood comedy than a modern French one. But both characters are enormously sympathetic and you can’t deny the film’s heart is in the right place. It delivers broad laughs and tugs at the heartstrings without delving too deep – the very definition of a crowd-pleaser.