out of Five
Running time: 112
A smash hit in its native country, Untouchable is a hugely entertaining feelgood French drama with immensely likeable characters, a warm-hearted script and a pair of terrific performances from Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet.
What's it all about?
Co-directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, Untouchable (Intouchables, original title fans) is set in present-day France and stars Omar Sy as Driss, a well-built, charming Senegalese ex-street criminal who shows up to a job interview needing a refusal and a signature so he can claim benefits. However, his attitude so impresses his interviewers that he winds up with a job as a full-time, live-in carer to wealthy Philippe (Francois Cluzet), who's paralysed from the neck down and has become sick and tired of the pity and condescension evinced by his previous carers.
Omar Sy is utterly charming as Driss, a likeable, constantly upbeat character with a slightly cheeky side to him; even without the unnecessary prologue showing the pair together, we know immediately his heart is in the right place. Francois Cluzet (who looks more like Dustin Hoffman with every film he does) is equally good as Philippe and the pair have a sparky chemistry together that works perfectly; there's also terrific support from the gorgeous Audrey Fleurot (who's like a French Christina Hendricks) and Anne Le Ny as Philippe's staff members.
The warm-hearted script pushes all the right buttons while, refreshingly, avoiding some of the expected clichés, such as finding contrived reasons to drive a wedge between the two lead characters.
What remains is a genuinely moving portrait of an unexpected friendship, topped with a handful of standard-issue-but-well-written feelgood scenes (Driss getting everyone to dance to his music; Driss sort-of bonding with Philippe's teenage daughter and so on). Needless to say, it's often laugh-out-loud funny in the process, particularly the sequence of events set in motion by their visit to an art gallery.
It's perhaps worth pointing out that filmmakers have taken a few liberties with the true story (as a brief clip makes clear at the end, the real Driss was an Algerian immigrant), but that doesn't spoil the movie per se, even if the reasons for doing so probably don't bear thinking about too closely.
Untouchable was a huge hit in its native country and it's not hard to see why France has chosen the film as its official entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar next year; it's an unashamedly feelgood film that pushes all the right buttons and sends you out of the cinema with a big smile on your face. Highly recommended.