Mysterious messages drive unusual thriller
Werner’s dedication to the people and place where he lives and works seems likely to come to an end, however. In the film’s opening scene a colleague, Nores (Christophe Odent), who is based in another town, tells him the bad news: he has a brain tumour, with only a 50-50 chance of survival. It’s urgent he lighten his workload to allow the chemotherapy a chance to work. Nores unilaterally decides to send Werner an assistant, and before long Nathalie Delezia (Marianne Denicourt) shows up, newly graduated comparatively late in life after spending her early years as a nurse.
At first Werner, who is very set in his ways, is suspicious of the newcomer who, he quickly confirms, is from the city and has no knowledge of how things work in a rural area. But there are no prizes for guessing that, despite a few differences, the two doctors eventually become friends, thanks to the mutual respect they have for each other.
Thomas Lilti, who directed and co-scripted the film, was himself a doctor — a profession he shared with George Miller, an entirely different kind of filmmaker — and The Country Doctor, his third feature, feels very authentic.
The various patients include an old man (Guy Faucher) who wants to spend his final days in his own home, an autistic youth (Yohann Goetzmann) obsessed with World War I, a young woman (Margaux Fabre) in a violent relationship, and the local mayor (Patrick Descamps) who suffers a serious leg injury one night during a storm. All these characters are interesting and well integrated into a drama that, while its narrative line is entirely predictable, nevertheless has a ring of truthfulness. Cluzet and Denicourt give relaxed and perceptive performances. The subject of school bullying is an important and relevant one, but you don’t normally expect to find it in an animated film. This, though, is the theme of A Silent Voice, the latest anime to come to us from Japan. It’s odd, in a way, that a decision was made to animate Yoshitoki Oima’s book, because the material would be equally, if not more, effective as a live action movie.
It starts at a primary school where the arrival of a new girl, Shoko, irritates the school bully, Shoya, because she is profoundly deaf. He and members of his gang harass her in a variety of cruel ways, including stealing her hearing aids. A few years later, a reformed and now lonely Shoya encounters Shoko again by chance and tries to make amends. This simple story is complicated by an excess of characters and a hefty running time of well over two hours, but director Naoko Yamada’s treatment is sensitive and the animation is beautiful.