Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A beautiful, humane and moving little gem: Katell Quillévéré's HEAL THE LIVING

There are moments in HEAL THE LIVING, the new film from Katell Quillévéré -- whose Love Like Poison (click and scroll down) made an impressive debut back in 2011 -- that are so indelibly beautiful and compassionate, humane and almost shockingly non-judgmental that they near literally take your breath away. One of these comes early on, as the event occurs that sets the film's plot in motion. We enter the mind and spirit of a young man driving a car, and we experience this in such an all-encompassing visual manner combining beauty, understanding and enormous unease that we are simply transported. And we know we're in the hands of a born filmmaker.

Ms Quillévéré (shown at left) and that excellent screenwriter Gilles Taurand have adapted their fine screenplay from the novel by Maylis De Karangal, and the resulting film is one of the more sympathetic to and empathetic of the human condition in memory.  Yes, the movie skirts sentimentality now and again -- dealing as it does with life, death and death that brings life -- yet the filmmaker's choices are usually so specific and clear-headed that viewers are more likely to rejoice than to reject.

It is also rare to see a movie in which all the characters are loved and cherished. This fact, too, ensures that Heal the Living is so resoundingly pro-life (and, no, I'm not talking about abortion) that the movie will make you appreciate and value this world and the people in it to the point that it becomes an immediate must-see. (The film also acts as a kind of artistic antidote to Donald Trump.)

How Quillévéré connects her characters is quite lovely, too. She goes back and forth in time, especially concerning her young protagonist, Simon, played by newcomer Gabin Verdet (above and below, left) who we are certain to see more of, so indelible is this young actor in a most unusual role. How Simon bonds with his girl is presented with enough beauty and joy that it's rather like experiencing your own first love all over again.

When the movie comes to its second set of characters, led by Claire (Anne Dorval, below) as a middle-aged mother with health problems, we don't initially know the connection. But again, so specific and intriguing are the characters in this second family, as well as what we continue learn about them, that we have no trouble hanging on.

To this end, we meet a concert pianist (Alice Taglioni, below, who seems to grow and expand as an actress with each new role) whose place in Claire's life we soon learn. We also meet Claire's two sons, one of whom she clearly favors to the detriment of the other. We also worry and grieve with Simon's parents, played affecting by Emmanuelle Seigner and Kool Shen (shown in photo at bottom).

In between and connecting these two sets of families are the hospital workers and doctors who will end up ministering -- and very well -- to the needs of each. Perhaps the film's most affecting and poignant scene takes place as one young hospital worker, beautifully rendered by Tahar Rahim, (below) explains to an organ donor what is happening. The movie is titled Heal the Living, yet this scene of quiet caring and concern for a corpse is so strange and moving that you may have trouble catching your breath and/or holding back tears.

Unusual, too, is how the filmmaker's documentary-like section devoted to an organ transplant remains so firmly rooted in our co-joined humanity that even the very graphic operation seems as much a part of the movie's capacious depth and breadth as does all else. For a change, regarding this kind of scene, you don't even want to look away.
Yes, this is one remarkable, memorable movie.

From Cohen Media Group and running just 104 minutes, Heal the Living opens this Friday, April 14, in New York City at the newly renovated Quad Cinema, and in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Monica Film Center. Elsewhere? I hope so, but the Cohen web site for the film isn't so far giving us any clues.

No comments: