Sunday, July 23, 2017

DVDebut -- Thomas Lilti's French charmer THE COUNTRY DOCTOR: an Rx for what ails you

Some movies seem to exist to give expected pleasures -- the good ones with smart, realistic detail that pulls you in; the not-so-good ones via the usual thudding cliches -- and today's "watch," THE COUNTRY DOCTOR, is fortunately one of the former, a French film that shows us a lot about the life of a kind, compassionate, smart and now-sick-himself doctor, Jean-Pierre, who labors in a small provincial town. No spoiler here, since we learn of our medicine man's cancer prognosis in the very first scene of the film.

Then we move to his usual workday: visiting patient after patient, including his parents, and we quickly see how well he does his job. The details are terrific: specific and fascinating (at least they were for a medical civilian like TrustMovies).  As directed and co-written by Thomas Lilti (shown at right), the movie bursts with both energy and ideas. Soon, Jean-Pierre's own doctor has sent him a possible helper/replacement, a new doctor named Nathalie, who seems equally bright and caring, if a little too quick on the draw, diagnosis-wise.

The actors who play this Hippocratic pair could hardly have been better chosen. François Cluzet (above, of Tell No One, À l'origine (click and scroll way down), The Intouchables) gives another of his sterling, lived-in performances as Jean-Pierre, while the lesser-known (on these shores) Marianne Denicourt (below, of Sade and Serial Killer 1) brings to the proceedings, along with her beauty, that special skill of seeming pert-yet-deep and so immediately wins us over.

The supporting cast is made up mostly of the doctors' patients, and each one is brought to quick, sharp life. Via one vignette after another, we grow to know the life of the doctor, his new "assistant," the townspeople (and some of their concerns), as well as our hero's ongoing treatment.

If there is not a misstep in any of the details here, the movie does lose some of its earlier steam by choosing to go the feel-good route, rather than the more expected, would-have-been-more troubling-but-also-deeper route.

This is not a deal-breaker. The results here are medically believable, but they also bypass the opportunity to confront dying and death from the personal and certainly more unusual perspective of the physician himself. Too bad.

The Country Doctor, available from Distrib Films US, makes it DVD debut via Icarus Films Home Video this coming Tuesday, July 25, available for purchase and/or, one hopes, now or eventually rental and streaming.

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