“A story worth telling” – Heal the Living (Film Review)

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Based on the novel, Réparer les vivants (Mend the Living) by Maylis Kerangal, story follows the events after a tragic accident of a teenage boy, who is left brain-dead but with healthy organs. His family has to make the decision whether to let him become donor within a matter of hours. Elsewhere, a middle-aged woman with a crippling heart condition, awaits a call that the hospital has a heart for her.

The title of Katell Quillévéré’s can explain both parts of the film, the first being about Simon‘s accident, his parents left behind that have to decide whether they donate his organs or not. They themselves need to heal after the devastating loss of their son. The second part of the film is about Claire who desperately needs a heart transplant. She used to be a musician but due to her condition she can’t play anymore. Her sons are there to care for her, as well as her past girlfriend who she never told about the illness. These people, her family, need to be healed by her. Bridging the stories together are the hospital staff who care for Simon and after he is beyond repair, ask his parents to consider him as an organ donor. They contact Claire and preform the surgery, making a huge impact on everyone’s’ lives but they at the same time just passing through their stories.

The opening sequences to Heal the Living speak much louder than words. As we watch Simon sneak out of his girlfriend’s room and ride his bike in the early hours of the morning, the waves are a welcome sound, accompanied by fantastic shots of the surfers. The water is portrayed both as a beautiful entity and dangerous. There is an uneasy feeling that something will happen, but the only physical shock of the film is the moments after the surfers travel back home, leaving the water behind, as peaceful as the film’s first moments.

Although a story is meant to focus on the good that comes from tragedies, the film feels like a spotlight and that not only are the characters are passing through their day to day, but we, the audience are passing through. There is the temptation to question what’s next as it can be mistaken for a beautifully choreographed episode in a larger series, unlike Quillévéré’s previous films which were more focused and concentrated. Despite this thought, the story is everything it’s meant to be, a mixture of hope and sadness with no surprises to deter from a story worth telling.

Dir: Katell Quillévéré

Scr: Katell Quillévéré, Gilles Taurand

Cast: Tahar Rahim, Emmanuelle Seigner, Anne Dorval, Bouli Lanners, Kool Shen

Prd: David Thion, Justin, Taurand, Philippe Martin

DoP: Tom Harari

Music: Alexandre Desplat

Country: France, Belgium

Run time: 104 minutes

Heal the Living is in cinemas from 28th April