The Intouchables (2011): A Beautiful Bromance

Things aren't always just black and white

The Intouchables has been met with some heavy critique from audiences, who felt the film didn’t do justice to either the real life story it was based on (the original Algerian character being replaced by a black man for the film), or the original French adaption of the film. The film was a massive hit in its homeland, becoming the second highest grossing French film of all time, and The Intouchables sees Bob and Harvey Weinstein giving the film its Hollywood makeover for English speaking audiences. 

The film follows the story of a budding Bromance between two men from very different sides of the track. Philippe, played by François Cluzet, is a billionaire and quadriplegic; paralysed from the waist down in a hand-gliding accident. He’s sick to death of seeing qualified and ‘sensitive’ carers walk through his door, concerned with using empowering language and making sure he’s in bed at an appropriate time. 

Into his life walks Driss (Omar Sy), a young black man from the banlieues who only bothered turning up for the interview at Philippe’s place as a way of making sure he keeps his benefits coming in. Driss’ home life isn’t the easiest; having just received parole for robbery, his mum doesn’t want to see him and his younger brother is starting to get involved with the wrong crowd. It looks like both men could do with a little help. 

Driss’ irreverence and often downright rudeness is refreshing to Philippe. From their newly founded relationship comes true moments of fun and humour- moments that aren’t lost on the audience. Driss mucking about with Philippe’s hair (the classic Hitler style is used, as is an ode to Bieber) playfully shows the advantages of having a boss unable to move the lower part of his body, or arms to hit you. 

There are some lovely scenes of the two men driving around at night and getting high; Driss like a child in a sweet shop when it comes to choosing which of Philippe’s many expensive cars to drive,  and Philippe revelling in the chance to be out on the roads of Paris past 10 o’clock. For me, the greatest moment of joy comes when Driss decides to get on down to Earth Wind & Fire. 

Some critics have decided to call this scene offensive because Driss is black and dancing to what is stereotypically black music...yawn. Sometimes my friends, a scene or moment in a film has to be taken for the beauty of its simplicity: in this case a young man doing a very good job of dancing to some very good music, whilst a disabled man and friend watches on, first in envy and then with real laughter and a shared delight. Things aren’t always black and white. 

The Intouchables has been lambasted by some for having little substance, supposedly making a mockery out of the real story. I agree that this isn’t a film that’s going to change the world. This aint no Inside I’m Dancing. But THAT’S THE POINT!!! Not every film that has a disabled character needs to be about campaigning for disability rights. Not every film that has black actors needs to be about racial equality. And if you can’t recognise that, then you’re missing the point.