Weekend Roundup: The Intouchables Review

Happy Tuesday! Hope y’all had a great St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Did you see any Irish film? I was thinking of watching Leap Year which takes place in Ireland after seeing Matthew Goode in Stoker, but maybe next time. Well, it ends up being a foreign-cinema weekend for me with two excellent films from France and China, The Intouchables and John Woo’s epic military drama Red Cliff,  on top of more Downton Abbey episodes 🙂

Well, here’s my review of one of one of the films, I shall have Red Cliff review as a rental pick post.

The Intouchables (2011)

Intouchables_posterI’ve always loved stories of unlikely friendship. Phillipe is a French aristocrat who becomes a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident. Driss is a troubled French-African young man in need of a job. Their lives could not be more dissimilar, yet somehow, they connected in ways neither one of them could’ve predicted.

The movie begins with an exhilarating car chase with Driss on the wheel of a Maserati Quattroporte, with Phillipe in the passenger seat. In no time the police are behind them, but what happens next set up just how they end up in that situation in the first place.

The moment Driss is hired by Phillipe himself to be his caretaker, the film just grabs me. I love how brutally honest this film is in depicting Phillipe’s handicap, as Driss pulls no punches in his reaction to Phillipe’s condition. It’s not mean-spirited mind you, even if some of the stuff he does to Phillipe definitely raises an eyebrow. Some of the blatantly irreverent scenes are amusing and touching because it’s not done in a gimmickry manner, instead it dares us to look at physical handicap in a different way. Phillipe likes Driss because he doesn’t pity him or look at him as if he’s a lesser human being because he has no movement from his neck-down. In a way, the film asks us not to pity Phillipe either.

I read that some people/reviewers complain about racism in this film and I agree with my friend Keith’s review that the idea is absurd. Yes of course there are racial issues depicted here, but so are social issues and the stark contrast between the posh Paris society and the poverty-stricken suburbs. I’d think anyone who is not an aristocrat would identify with Idris, such as his reaction seeing an Opera for the first time.


Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano wrote and directed the film, which is based on a true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, the white, quadriplegic millionaire, and Abdel Sellou, the young ex-con born of African immigrant parents. Based on this Huffington post article, the filmmakers changed Abdel’s Arabic origin to a Senegal-born African because Omar is black, but they essentially share a similar background as French immigrants. I could see that this film is a personal project for the filmmakers and they handled it with care. Both François Cluzet and Omar Sy—as Phillipe and Driss respectively—are wonderful and they have such effortless chemistry. Driss is often impudent, even downright rude, but he has a good heart and he genuinely cares for Philippe. Sy is just so charming you can’t help but being drawn to him. Cluzet reminds me a bit of Dustin Hoffman with his mannerism at times. Portraying a disabled person is inherently tricky, but his careful portrayal is heartfelt and pleasant, without overplaying it.

There are plenty of honest dialog between the two leads that contribute to such a strong character-development. Their journey to self-healing is wonderful to watch. Though their circumstances perhaps don’t change much in the end, their friendship certainly is life-changing.


I love films that celebrates the human spirit and explores the relationship between people of contrasting backgrounds. The Intouchables treads ethnic and socio-economic tensions that may be a hot button issue for some. For me, what makes the film works is the sincere and incredibly moving depiction of human relationship. It helps to have two characters who are so easy to root for. We are emotionally-invested in both men, as well as the people around them.

I’m surprised this film was not nominated for Best Foreign Language at this year’s Oscar. It’s certainly worthy to be included. The script is nary of over-sentimental melodrama that films with this subject matter could easily fall prey to. Instead, it’s full of humorous and heartfelt scenes that makes you laugh and cry throughout. The cinematography is gorgeous too, that paragliding scene just took my breath away. It’s definitely a charming film I don’t mind watching again. Highly recommended.

4.5 out of 5 reels

Thoughts on this movie? What did you see this weekend, anything good?

57 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup: The Intouchables Review

  1. Ted S.

    Nice review Ruth, I’ll probably give it a rent sometime. Cluzet reminds me of Dustin Hoffman too, in fact I first saw him in a film called Tell No One a few years back and he looked exactly like Hoffman. That film was based on an American novel, I’m surprised no Hollywood studio pick up the rights to that novel. It’s a good suspense thriller.

    I was still recovering from the cold and was in the mood for action/espionage, so I watched The Hunt for Red October, still love it after seeing it for countless times. Then I rented Taken 2, it’s descent for what it was. I still don’t get all the hate that the film received considering the first one wasn’t that great to begin with. In fact, I thought it was in the same league as the first film, it didn’t try to be more than what it was.

      1. Ted S.

        Well I’m surprised anymore then, lol. Thanks for the info Dave, I knew some studio would’ve picked up the rights to do a remake. The funny thing is the film was based on an American novel!

    1. Cluzet is also in a more recent film called Little White Lies. It also features Marion Cotillard and Jean Dujardin. It’s a Big Chill kind of movie. Too long and a bit silly at times but really good and Cluzet probably has the biggest role.

      1. I’ve heard some mixed reviews of Little White Lies, well mostly negative. I might give it a shot though as I like three of those actors.

    2. Oh you definitely should rent this Ted, you won’t be disappointed. It’s surprisingly funnier than I thought, but also very heart-warming. I want to see Tell No One, that sounds really good. Euro thrillers are usually more intriguing than US ones anyway.

      1. Ted S.

        Tell No One is very good, I don’t know if I agree that European thrillers are better than US since there are a lot of great thrillers from here too. Also, Tell No One was based on an American novel. 🙂

        1. Yeah I suppose there are some great US thrillers too, but Euro thrillers seem more original and less bombastic. Btw, I might be buying the Red Cliff blu-ray, you really should give that a shot.

          1. Ted S.

            Cool, I’ll just burrow Red Cliff from you. I guess it’s nice seeing Woo doing something other than shoot’em up action films.

            1. Oh yeah, this one is more than just shoot-em-up, the story is fantastic and you could tell it’s a personal project for him. I was blown away. Anyway, you’re still on for Olympus tomorrow right? I’ll DM you.

  2. Fabulous review Ruth and I couldn’t agree more. This is such a wonderful film. I was so anxious to finally see it that I had built up pretty lofty expectations. Thankfully it met them easily. Love, love, love this movie. (Thanks for the kind plug of my review! Sooo appreciated).

    1. Wonderful indeed! I think your review finally pushed me to rent it this weekend and my hubby was very intrigued as well. I too LOVE this movie, I laughed and cried throughout, it was a lovely experience. We need more movies like this that celebrate the human spirit.

      My pleasure for the linkage, it was a great review! 😀

  3. Great review! Been meaning to check this one out for a while but other films keep getting in the way! As for what I saw this weekend, I saw The Paperboy and I still don’t really know what I thought of it! Trashy to the nth degree!

    1. Y’know I was the same way, but finally Keith’s review compelled me not to put it off anymore. Oh boy I’m so glad I did, LOVE this movie! I’m not interested in The Paperboy to be honest. Will you be reviewing it Chris?

      1. I certainly will! I’ve just finished my review and it’ll be up in a day or two once by Side Effects one has had chance to breath. Having a little knowledge of your taste in films, I’d say maybe The Paperboy isn’t up your street to be honest, so I reckon your gut feelings towards it are probably correct.

  4. I’ve heard good things on this one from several sources. I know its on on Demand right now, I may just have to check it out for myself later on this week! Thanks Ruth, for pushing me closer towards it!

    1. I hope you do Fogs! It’ll hopefully erase all the bad memories you had about Twilight, ahah. This movie has so much heart but also surprisingly fun and hilarious, hope you enjoy it.

  5. Hey Ruth. Another one on my watch list that I did not get a chance to see. As for my Paddy’s Day viewing, I caught up with the John Ford/John Wayne ‘classic’ The Quiet Man, which was shot on location in Ireland – beautifully shot in Technicolor, no less.

  6. We had this film sold out in my city’s biggest cinema for five months. Literally.

    It was absolutely stunning and amazing and was most definitely worthy of an Oscar.

    1. Hi Elena, welcome to FC! Are in the UK? I wasn’t even aware when this film came to my city. I really thought this was snubbed big time at the Oscars. They should’ve only nominated Amour in the Best Picture category and put this in its slot in the Foreign Language category.

  7. PrairieGirl

    I don’t pay much attention to foreign films, so am glad you did a review of this, it sounds wonderful. I just put it in my queue ;-D

    1. Oh you’ll like this one T. It’s so full of heart and the fact that it’s based on a true story makes it all the more compelling.

    1. Ah, fair enough Bonjour. I’ve got my review of Red Cliff ready but it was way too long for my weekend roundup post so I decided to post it separately. I absolutely love that one, and normally it’s not even my genre.

  8. Great review, Ruth, I had a feeling you would love this one! I wasn’t sure what to expect but as soon as Earth Wind & Fire’s “September” started up, I knew it was going to be a fun time. Still can’t believe this didn’t get an Oscar nod.

  9. Besides Stoker, i saw the horror anthology VHS and a older film alled Eves Bayou(The reason i checked it out is because its known as a classic of black cinema). Enoyed them all

    And i haven’t seen the Intouchables yet.

    1. Oh Eve’s Bayou, is that the one with Samuel L. Jackson?? I think I’ve heard of that one. This one is worth renting for sure, Julian.

  10. So glad that you enjoyed this one too. I have the same score. In fact, it remains my fave movie last year. I am also surprised that it didn’t get a nomination in Best Foreign film in Oscar. But still loved the movie. Such a great heartwarming film.

  11. Good to hear you finally saw this, it is such a great movie and a feel good one as well. You write you also saw Red Cliff…I still have the DVD of it, but the 4 hour running time is a bit daunting…

    1. Oh I got the 2.5 hr version of Red Cliff, Nostra, though I think now I don’t mind seeing the 4-hr version too. It’s such a great film.

  12. Happy that you enjoyed this one! The friendship and comedy moments won me over. I like what you say that Driss doesn’t pity him.
    Being open to colored ex-cons as potential employees and friends is what the message is about for me, and cannot be said often enough considering immigration situation in France last few years.
    It reminded me a bit of The Visitor (2007), which attempted to humanize foreigners after 9/11, when US were more scared than ever. A heart-warming movie also worth checking out 🙂

    1. Yes, the friendship is so sincere and it certainly made for a lot of comedic moments. I really admire Phillipe for taking a chance on Driss, he wasn’t prejudiced. Oh I like The Visitor, such a great performance from Richard Jenkins. Lovely movie indeed.

    1. Yeah he was! I hope he continues acting, he’s got screen charisma. I think he’s cast in the upcoming X-Men First Class so Hollywood’s noticed him!

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