The Intouchables is one of those films that somehow makes you feel good without seeming like it deliberately ignored the difficult and uncomfortable issues. Based on the true story of the relationship between Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his carer Abdel Sellou, the film is about the enduring power of friendship and humanity.
The Intouchables tells the story of an unlikely pair. Philippe (François Cluzet), a wealthy quadriplegic, hires Driss (Omar Sy) as his live-in carer. Driss is a young black man from a troubled family, who proves to be exactly what the ailing Philippe needs – a breath of fresh air. In their months living together, they develop a strange bond, based on incredible empathy and human understanding.
But The Intouchables is not the tired story of a benevolent old white guy who straightens out a wayward youth, or of a hip street kid who reinvigorates an old man’s life. The film goes beyond these stereotypes, partly by playing directly into them. It points to socio-economic disparities of French society, but only to make a broader point about humanity – the film is about the strength of Philippe and Driss’ relationship, not about what they had to overcome to achieve it. Philippe and Driss base their relationship on sensitivity, understanding and humour, and the audience walks away having thought very little about the plight of the disabled, social inequality or race.
The Intouchables presents a moving story with sharp dialogue and great leads backed up by a strong supporting cast. Omar Sy in particular adds an extra level of individuality to Driss’ role, preventing him from becoming a caricature. It also has a lively and fitting soundtrack, a mix of classical music and Western pop hits, and Driss’ fondness for Earth, Wind & Fire is particularly endearing. The film has a few weaknesses – an unnecessarily long dance sequence, some unresolved plot points and no strong sense of finality. But The Intouchables is still highly entertaining, really funny and surprisingly touching, and a little bit different to a standard tale of friendship.