The shoemaker’s wife is always worst clad. Jean-Pierre Werner (played by François Cluzet, Dustin Hoffman’s French lookalike) is a reserved yet doting countryside doctor looking after patients in the rural communities, most of them elder and convalescent. He consistently gives his best to these people, sometimes acting as both a physician and caretaker, and always finding the most humane solutions for their treatment. But what shall he do upon finding out that he was an inoperable cancer on the left side his brain, and that he has to undergo radio and chemotherapy?
The director Thomas Lilti is a former doctor himself, and so he understands very well the moral and philosophical contradictions of such work. Jean-Pierre wants to honour his Hippocritic Oath and provide treatment as best as he can, but he forgets that his ability and judgment are to be affected by the aggressive therapy that he’s about to take. The realisation of his own vulnerability and mortality makes him angry and aggressive. His frustration shows when at one point he describes nature as “a barbarity”.
Jean-Pierre is not pleased when his bosses send him the young Nathalie Delezia (Marianne Denicourt, from Lilti previous film Hippocrates, made in 2014) to support and eventually substitute him. She’s very unexperienced, and instead of providing her with support, he’s often abusive. He thinks that he’s irreplaceable. Many of his patients don’t welcome her arrival either, with one slamming the door in her face. In such remote environment, where life has a languid pace, change is often frowned upon.
Lilti creates a warm film with emotional depth and humanity. He rescues the most beautiful and noble facets of the medical profession – unlike the also doctor-turned-helmer David Cronenberg whose disturbing films are more focussed on the physiological and pathological side of medicine. The French directors shuns melodrama in favour of slow-paced storytelling, supported by intense dialogue and robust performances – all in good, old-fashioned French style.
The movie is not without flaws, the most significant one being the soundtrack. The score is a little too loud and dissonant, more suitable for an unabashed tearjerker (which the film isn’t). The story doesn’t deliver the passion to match the majestic song in the last sequence of the movie – a ballad exhaustively used throughout the history of cinema. In other words, Irreplaceable is a heartfelt film, but neither a blow ro the head nor a punch to the stomach.
The French film is showing for three weeks only from Friday January 23rd at the Cine Lumiere in London – just click here for more information.
Right here you can watch the film trailer: