‘The Intouchables’ (or just ‘Untouchable’ in the UK) chronicles the relationship between Phillippe, a very wealthy middle aged man who is now quadriplegic, and Driss, a younger man from a much poorer background. As you might expect, the two pair possess very different personalities, the mansion-dwelling Phillippe is quiet, reserved and interested in art and classical music, while Driss is a lively, energetic man who likes disco.
The film actually opens with a very strong scene taking place long after they have met. It’s funny, emotional, establishes their relationship well, and is basically a car chase (!). It then flashes back to their original meeting; a job interview which Driss has only attended in order to obtain a signature for welfare money. He is vastly different from all the other candidates and of course, gets the position. While these scenes are reasonably entertaining, they do not seem to serve a great deal of purpose following the film’s excellent opening. They feel a bit like a needless origin story really. Following the original meeting, the story continues in a highly predictable manner, as our central pair gains mutual respect by sharing their varied passions and histories with each other (Driss’ reaction to modern art is quite a highlight).
The two leads are both very well played by Francois Cluzet (‘Tell No One’) and particularly Omar Sy, who keeps Driss infected with an energy that maintains his likeability despite workplace conduct that could easily get him sued for sexual harassment.
Ultimately though, the story feels like it’s building towards a climax that never really arrives. Also, there is a certain amount of credibility that seems to come automatically for non-English language films, and, had this been American (and watch out, a remake is reportedly on the way) people might have been quicker to declare it a piece of sentimental, mass-appeal, awards bait.