Since seeing The Artist back in January, I didn’t think that that kind of joy could really come twice in one year. Sure, there have been films that have appealed to me on a geek – you could almost call indulgent – way, but nothing has made me smile ridiculously throughout the film. Until now.
Untouchable is based on a true story, about the friendship of Philippe (François Cluzet), a wealthy quadriplegic and his carer, ex-con Driss (Omar Sy), whose unconventional ways and appetite for life brings out a new side to his patient.
Now, if you ignore the posters plastered around London and depended on reviews from certain well-known publications, there may have been doubts as to whether this film would be actually even remotely enjoyable. It may expose us to the harsher themes of disability and racial prejudice, as well as refer to certain clichés that accompany such taboo topics, but these things shouldn’t eclipse what the co-directors and writers Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledamo have done in their adaptation of the true story about Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his carer Abdel Sellou. They do not over-elborate these clichés to the extent of heightening the film’s predictability but focus on the characters, their friendship and story. And to be fair, if viewers are concentrating on the social message of this film, they are focussing on the wrong thing.
The chemistry between Cluzet and Sy is wonderful – Sy is charming and adjusts to his role pretty quickly as an inexperienced carer and Cluzet, as classical-loving and intellectual romantic Philippe, depends on his dialogue and the on-screen rapport with Sy to draw the viewer in as his character divulges in the simpler pleasures in life. What is interesting about Driss is that he is not motivated by money to remain in the position but instead shows his commitment to Philippe by staying, therefore showing responsibility for the first time in his life.
The term ‘crowd-pleaser’ rings true with this feature – from the opening sequence involving numerous bets and a high-speed car chase, it is touching and the right level of heart-warming without becoming corny and really funny. Jokes are indeed predictable in places, but most are them are just simple but brilliant interactions between the two leads – such as Philippe’s ‘tutorial’ to classical music, leading to a different perspective on Vivaldi and Bach. There is a reason why Untouchable is currently the highest-grossing film that is not in English and Sy won the César Award for Best Actor, beating Jean Dujardin for The Artist.
Untouchable is very funny, sweet and almost joyful. It may not have won the hearts of critics due to its serious themes, but the chemistry between Cluzet and Sy is enough to bring out a smile…and tears of laughter to your eyes.