Salve for the soul

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

HEAL THE LIV­ING Di­rected by Katell Quil­lévéré. Star­ring Ta­har Rahim, Em­manuelle Seigner, Anne Dor­val, Bouli Lan­ners, Kool Shen, Mo­nia Chokri, Alive Taglioni, Karim Lek­lou. 12A, lim­ited re­lease, 104 min There are many rea­sons to cel­e­brate the lat­est film from the smart, imag­i­na­tive Katell Quil­lévéré. Not least among them is its abil­ity to find op­ti­mism in a se­ries of in­ter­con­nected tragic sto­ries. You don’t of­ten find that in se­ri­ous French cin­ema.

The pic­ture be­gins with the death of a young man. Hand­some teen Si­mon (Gabin Verdet) wakes up early in a city on the Chan­nel and makes his way to the shore for a twilit surf­ing ses­sion. In a bit­ter irony, it’s not the wave rid­ing, but the drive home that kills him. Fol­low­ing a ter­ri­ble crash, he is brought to a hospi­tal and de­clared to be brain dead. The del­i­cately judged scene be­tween the doc­tor (a sur­pris­ingly homely Ta­har Rahim) and the boy’s ru­ined par­ents (Em­manuelle Seigner and Kool Shen) is typ­i­cal of a con­sis­tently dis­ci­plined drama. The sur­geon has the wretched task of ask­ing if they would al­low their son’s or­gans to be do­nated. The par­ents ini­tially take of­fence, but later re­turn to give their agree­ment.

Else­where, a mid­dle-aged woman ( Anne Dor­val) is grap­pling with the ad­vanced stages of a heart com­plaint. She watches ET with her sons. She makes a trip to hear a pi­ano recital and has to ask an usher to carry her to the cir­cle.

At this stage the film’s di­rec­tion will be clear to any sen­si­ble viewer, but Quil­lévéré, di­rec­tor of the un­der­val­ued Suzanne, re­sists the temp­ta­tion to give in to a fist-pump­ing, five-han­kie de­noue­ment. The po­ten­tial trans­plant is used as a ve­hi­cle to re­motely con­nect a col­lec­tion of sub­tly drawn char­ac­ters. A few brief flash­backs bring Si­mon to life again and al­low us to thank him for the gift he has ac­ci­den­tally given. Mo­nia Chokri has a touch­ing role as a lonely nurse.

Heal the Liv­ing is not heavy with plot. The open­ing act drifts slowly to­wards its res­o­lu­tion with­out lay­ing on the melo­drama. The char­ac­ters are rarely ex­plicit in their ex­pres­sion of fears and as­pi­ra­tions. Fea­tur­ing a lovely score by Alexan­dre De­s­plat, Quil­lévéré’s film suc­ceeds as a melan­choly cel­e­bra­tion of the in­vis­i­ble threads that bind us. Worth seek­ing out.

Dis­ci­plined drama: Kool Shen, Gabin Verdet and Em­manuelle Seigner in Heal the Liv­ing

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