The Intouchables (2011)

Warning: this is more of an emotional and personal review.
It may cause tears but it probably won’t.

There comes a time in my everyday life when I’m willing to offer my whole attention to a movie – usually it means that I’m focused enough to read subtitles! I know it may sound a bit crazy and lazy, but I stopped reading subtitles in a very early age when it came to movies that had English as an audio. I was around 10-11 years old (and I checked this fact with my mom and she agreed) when my parents noticed that I wasn’t paying attention to the TV anymore – they asked if I could understand what was going on, and I translated some of the lines from the movie without looking at the screen. I’m not bragging, honestly, I just wanted to explain that my comfort with English has sort of guided me through life and now I have to really push myself towards a foreign (non-English) movie.

What an introduction to my review, a childhood story that serves no actual point in the review but I guess it was just nice to share something about myself. Now on to the movie that caught my eye, or technically my ears, when I was in Tallinn last week – two of my friends recommended me this movie in two separate occasions. Usually I pass these things up, like I said I’m a bit lazy when it comes to subtitles, but I remembered my last foreign experience and I thought I’d give it a go. Movie in question is The Intouchables (2011) – a masterpiece from French about an odd friendship that has made it to the top 250 in IMDb.

I might be over selling it a bit too much when I say it’s a masterpiece but there is something special about a movie that can make you cry and laugh at the same time. Some might disagree on the matter just because they find it to be offensive, for reasons I’m not willing to touch ground with, so all I’m gonna say is that it has a life-like quality I enjoyed. For me, not only did the writers, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, who also directed the movie, capture the true story The Intouchables is based on (this really happened!) but the actors made me believe in their relationship. So basically, the movie was a masterpiece because it was utterly realistic and here’s another interesting thought I just had. Does any of you sometimes think that the belief in a role is dependent on the knowing-factor: if you are familiar with the actor you might not be as convinced by him/her in a role but if you haven’t encountered them before, like in my case with The Intouchables, you automatically believe them a bit more. Well, whatever the case is, I thought Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy portrayed their parts remarkably.

By the end of the movie emotions have run wild with this one, as I said, it will make you cry while you laugh, and laugh while you cry. The saddest effect the movie actually  had on me was the fact that it made me miss friendship. It may sound a bit emo when I say I haven’t experienced friendship in a while but it’s just the cold reality of my lonely (filled with blogging) summer. All my good friends are either in a different city or out of the country and I miss that feeling of spending time with a friend. The Intouchables had that bitter sweetness to its funny moments because one of the characters was paralyzed from neck down. While I couldn’t help to feel sorry for him, I envied him as well, because he found a caretaker who became somebody he trusted, who he considered as a friend and who treated him as a person rather than a disability. It’s obvious by the plot but I’m gonna tell it anyways – there’s a lesson of life hidden in The Intouchables. It’s not the lesson about treating people equally or seeing good in people who don’t look the part (both obvious things anyone should learn from The Intouchables), it’s knowing that there is always room to

celebrate life!

Images from Rotten Tomatoes.

# 267 – Tomboy (Foreign Special)

I just finished watching Tomboy, a French movie about a 10 year-old girl who moved to a new place with her family and decided to tell everybody she was a boy. It is certainly an intense movie from the point of view of its topic but it is a nice addition to my Foreign subcategory which has not gotten many posts.

I had Tomboy in my “to watch” list for a long time and today I felt like watching it. Directed and written by Céline Sciamma for who this is a second feature film. She tackles a difficult issue with Tomboy by trying to show a rough topic through the eyes of children. Laure who is brilliantly played my Zoé Héran wants to fit into a group of young boys and since she has boyish looks, manages to do so. She sure does look like a boy and if I had not known she was a girl I would have found it much more shocking when the plot finally revealed it. Although the moment was still surprisingly shown to the audience!

The movie continues as the rest of the summer passes for Laure and as Michaël to others. She plays football without her shirt, spits on the ground like a boy, wrestles with boys and even goes swimming as a boy! When a group member Lisa develops feelings for him she replies to them. Meanwhile at home she plays with her little sister as if she was just a girl. I kept wondering what will happen if others found out her secret and I did not have to wait long. The ending gives a solid but not too light finishing touches to this intriguing situation whilst her mother’s words truly describes the movie: “It doesn’t bother me that you pretend to be a boy. And it doesn’t hurt me. But it can’t continue.” Yes, Laure is a boy to others but school is soon starting and she can not be one any longer. But it gives an idea that the mother does not care if she keeps acting like a boy, keeps wearing boyish clothes and even carries some boy-like physical attributes. So in a sense, it leaves everything open for Laure who for one summer got to be a boy…

All this and all of it in french gave me an amazing experience this evening and I wanted to come and write about it immediately! Although I am giving it a 4 out of 5 (cause 5 is still rare) I want to give Zoé Héran a 7 out of 5! She was so great and I can just see her in my future in so many movies yet to come.

# 255 – A Separation (foreign special)

As I took part in PÖFF (which I posted a lot about and will continue to do so) I started to think about the content of this blog. Difficult statements were made in my mind and a final decision was that I will start to focus on foreign movies (that meaning movies that are not American). For me, this is probably a bit funny, cause I am Estonian and American movies are foreign for me as well but since I am basically writing this blog from the point of view of US cinema I made this distinction. So long story short, I am probably gonna post a lot of foreign movie reviews and trailers in addition to the long list of classics that are still waiting patiently for me to devour through them.

Back to business, A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin) was  the last movie I saw at PÖFF (in Tallinn, together with people from workshop – awesome movie experts) and it was a bittersweet experience which left a good impression to the entire festival. There has been a lot of hype around this Iranian movie which tackles one of the most universal issues – separation of a marriage and I thought it would be a nice beginning for this new category.

Written, directed and produced by Asghar Farhadi A Separation is the best Iranian movie so far, winning the Golden Bear for best film and two Silver Bears for the actors/actresses at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival, among the long list of other awards. Before getting deeper into the story-line I just want to mention the success through numbers. With a budget of half a million, A Separation has earned it all back and much-much more – just over $3 million in Iran itself and almost $15 million abroad!

The plot is simple, Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and Simin (Leila Harami) having separated, are now living with those consequences. In the very beginning it is shown that Simin wants a divorce, although she still has respect and love for her husband, because Nader is not willing to change his mind about moving abroad. The story follows them after Simin moves to her mother’s, where the emphasis of the plot is on Nader and his hired help – Razieh (Sareh Bayat). While separation is the problem on the surface, it is clear that the movie can not function without religion. The question of morals and what is acceptable or not, is especially strong within the character of Razieh. She is hired to help out with Nader’s father who is suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, while bringing along her young daughter: various stories emerge from that point on. In the end, it is almost a story of two marriages where one ends with not apparent reason and the other continues through the difficulties thrust upon them.

Nader and Simin end up staying apart, due to reasons that seem more complicated than just fighting or cheating (which is actually refreshing to see on the screen), and their daughter has to make a choice which parent she want’s to live with. This is the final chapter, the final scene of the movie that leaves a strong mark – the end credits roll between Nader and Simin sitting in a hallway, symbolizing their brake-up and their daughter is making a choice in front of the judge. Her decision is not shown, we are left to guess even though the actions of the father in the middle of the movie, where the conflict between Razieh arises, would lead us to presume the choice of the mother. Written and delivered with such strength, the child’s option, despite the conflict between the daughter and the father, is still hovering in the air days after seeing the movie.

Concluding with a compliment towards Farhadi: A Separation has a strong script, solid verbal contradiction and a powerful narrative with twists and turns. Together with Farhadi’s directing and the believable acting (from everyone, even the little kid) it is a must-see film with a sad, enjoyable and realistic story of how everybody makes mistakes.