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New Release Review - HEAL THE LIVING

heal the living movie review
When a teenager dies following an accident, his parents must decide whether or not to donate his organs.







Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Katell Quillevere

Starring: Tahar Rahim, Emmanuelle Seigner, Anne Dorval, Bouli Lanners

heal the living movie poster


Writer-director Katell Quillevere's Heal the Living is one of the oddest films I've seen in recent years, a movie that begins promisingly as a study of parental grief in the mode of The Son's Room or In the Bedroom, before turning into the sort of laughably earnest ensemble drama Will Smith would likely headline were it remade by Hollywood, and eventually ending as a commercial for organ donation.

heal the living movie

Following an early morning spot of surfing, teenager Simon (Gabin Verdet) is involved in a road accident that leaves him brain dead. In the midst of their grief, Simon's parents, Marianne (Emmanuelle Seigner) and Vincent (Kool Shen), are forced to make a decision regarding whether or not their son's organs should be donated.

E|lsewhere we meet Claire (Anne Dorval, who grabbed our attention in Xavier Dolan's Mommy), a middle-aged woman suffering from a heart condition and residing on the waiting list for a new organ. Having all but given up on her chance of receiving a heart, she sets out to put her affairs in order, looking up a former lover and spending time with her sons.

heal the living movie

There's a point in Heal the Living in which we begin to suspect Quillevere has lulled us into a false sense of security and is about to pull a cruel trick, twisting our assumptions of where her story is headed, but it fails to pan out; instead the movie progresses in exactly the manner you think it will, with the tragedy at its beginning leading to a neatly wrapped up happy ending. Much of it feels like a piece of propaganda - one that's admittedly for a good cause, but propaganda nonetheless. Every detail of the organ transplant process is rendered with a minute fetishistic quality, and if you get queasy at the sight of someone's insides you may struggle with much of the imagery on display here. At times it feels like we're watching one of those fly on the wall medical documentaries that have become so popular on the small screen, as there's little in the way of narrative or character for us to grasp onto while hearts and kidneys are prised out of splayed rib-cages.

The film often veers dangerously close to the sort of territory mined by the likes of Seven Pounds and Collateral Beauty, with an ensemble of characters drafted in to look miserable while Alexandre Desplat's didactic 'feel now' score overwhelms on the soundtrack. Some of the film's smaller moments are quite affecting, like doctor Tahar Rahim explaining his obsession with a bird native to his ancestral homeland, but others just come off as bizarre, like the erotic elevator fantasy sequence featuring a horny nurse whose neck bears a fresh hickey.

heal the living movie

Heal the Living wastes an impressively assembled cast by giving them a series of cardboard figures to essay. Quillevere seems more interested in constructing flashy visual sequences - some of which are admittedly arresting, especially an electrifying set-piece that homages The French Connection as Simon races on his bike against a cable car transporting his girlfriend home from school - which suggests commercials and music promos may be a better fit for this director.

Heal the Living is in UK/ROI cinemas April 28th.



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