An interweaving of three stories connected to each other via an accident.
‘Heal the Living’ is an outstanding piece of cinema, beautiful and heartbreaking in equal measure, but deeply engaging and moving throughout. The film follows the intersecting lives of different characters through an overarching story of an organ transplant, linking the two primary stories through the actions of the doctors and medical professionals who interact with both. The film firstly introduces us to Simon (Gabin Verdet), a 17 year old surfer who we first see sneaking out of his girlfriend’s window to go surfing with his friends. In a matter of minutes he’s been involved in a serious car crash and is in hospital fighting for his live, as we switch focus to his shellshocked parents and the hospital staff who face this kind of challenge on a daily basis. We return to this story, but we’re also introduced to Claire (Anne Dorval), a woman with a degenerative illness, facing a less sudden but no less impactful fate to that of Simon.
It’s material that we’ve seen before in mawkish TV dramas, but ‘Heal the Living’ rises above the potential contrivances that could have arisen thanks to excellent direction and subtly moving performances across the board. Katell Quillévéré’s direction beautifully draws these distinct arcs together into a cohesive whole, moving between the different stories with a lightness of touch that heightens the emotional impact of each moment. The film powerfully drives this home through a variety of techniques such as the insertion of dreamlike imagery and the well placed use of flashbacks. It’s a film that very skilfully puts you on edge and through the performances and direction I grew to really care for these characters and felt fully invested in their fate. It’s compassionate throughout for everyone involved, even when tackling a difficult conversation between a doctor and grieving parents about organ donation.
The performances are incredibly affecting and they succeed at putting the audience in the shoes and mindset of each character. Anne Dorval is a particular standout as a woman with a degenerative illness, reflecting back on life and reconnecting with those that matter most to her, and Emmanuelle Seigner really connects as a parent given the worst news possible. The themes that ‘Heal the Living’ covers are universal and speak to the fears that many people have, whether it be the thought of losing a child or a parent before their time, and the fragility of life really comes through as we relate to the pain of each character.
This is a stunning piece of shattering, emotional cinema and it really got me in the gut. It’s possibly the best film I’ve seen this year so far and I hope a lot of people get the opportunity to see it.
Directed By: Katell Quillévéré
Starring: Tahar Rahim, Emmanuelle Seigner, Anne Dorval, Bouli Lanners, Kool Shen, Monia Chokri and Alice Taglioni