EUFF 2016: Our Review of ‘Irreplaceable’

Posted in EUFF 2016, Film Festivals, Movies by - November 11, 2016
EUFF 2016: Our Review of ‘Irreplaceable’

In his new film, doctor turned director Thomas Lilti focuses on Jean-Pierre Werner’s (Francois Cluzet) rural practice. This is the work of a patient saint. He drives from patient to patient in a series of interconnected towns. All within a 40-kilometre radius. All of whom also have stubborn quirks making his practice more difficult than necessary. Lilti doubles down on Jean-Pierre’s saintliness by giving him a brain the first scene! Anyone would stop on his tracks yet he keeps on going. His doctor, of course, prepares him for the inevitable. He sends Jean-Pierre an emergency medic from the city named Nathalie Delizia (Marianne Denicourt). How interesting.

Lilti and co-writer Baya Kasmi’s script gives us fuel to doubt Nathalie. She has an interview with Jean-Pierre that is disastrous. There she says that her experience in the country is vacationing in the nearby town of Thorigny. The geese hanging around the patient’s farm houses also scare her like it would a city boy like me. However, Jean-Pierre, the patients, and the audience subconsciously doubt her because she’s female. No one outright says it loudly yet there it is. Nathalie messes up once, but most humans who are new to any workplace do the same.

Jean-Pierre reminds Nathalie that a doctor interrupts his or her patient every 22 seconds. She basically did that during her first patient in the country. They also have a big argument about how to care for one of his more senior patients. But none of these encounters are condescending nor egotistic on his part. It’s easy to see that both care about their patients. He talks to her and to his patients like someone who’s always willing to learn. He’s perpetually finding something in which to improve. Cluzet mixes these qualities and adds a refreshing angle to what we consider common sense. She shares these qualities too, which is why she came to the country in the first place.

These are two regular-looking doctors caring for more regular-looking patients. And we’re talking regular in a European context with European concerns. But of course, there are exceptions. During the first montage of Jean-Pierre’s consultations we see him writing down something for an African patient whose first language might not be French. Lilti’s film also takes us to a Romani camp where Nathalie has to inject a shot into one of the camp’s older ladies. Scenes like this don’t just show the doctors’ non-judgmental commitment to the Hippocratic oath. It also shows the frank yet matter-of-fact way the camera sees bodies.

And going back to Nathalie being Nathalie, sometimes being a woman has its own advantages in the field. There’s a steely yet motherly way that Denicourt depicts Nathalie, which is a mix of a script’s eventual sliding into archetypes and my own projections. Yet if she was playing Nathalie as a mom, she’s not a regular mom but a cool mom. She’s genuinely concerned about her patients non-medical interests. She’s also involved in the funniest revelation of an STD I’ve seen in a movie so far. And she shuts down the town misogynist that complements the film’s low key approach.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you’re working.