© Wild Bunch/Central

Die Lebenden reparieren (Heal the Living, Réparer les vivants)
France/Belgium 2016

Opening 7 Dec 2017

Directed by: Katell Quillévéré
Writing credits: Maylis De Kerangal, Katell Quillévéré, Gilles Taurand
Principal actors: Tahar Rahim, Emmanuelle Seigner, Anne Dorval, Bouli Lanners, Kool Shen

It is early morning in Le Harve. Simon (Gabin Verdet) kisses his girlfriend good-bye and jumps onto his skate board to meet up with friends. He piles into their car (without clicking his seat belt), and they are on their way to the beach for a much anticipated day of surfing. Unfortunately, a serious accident changes all plans, and Simon lands in the hospital, diagnosis: coma, braindead. What a shock for his parents, Marianne (Seigner) and Vincent. They receive support from the young intern Thomas (Rahim), but there is little one can do, except slump at his bedside and discuss a burial. But then, the topic of donating his young organs begins. Claire (Dorval) in Paris is a single mother of two. She is failing fast, although she manages to drag herself to a concert to listen to her girlfriend sing; she herself had a successful career in the music world in better days. Only a new heart can save her, and her physician convinces her to be put on a waiting list.

In this day of modern medicine, donation of organs has an important role in saving lives, something we experience here, wrapped around the fate of two people. This can be intriguing or not, depending on your own experiences or personality. I found the first 10 minutes to be the most interesting part of the film. From then on it gets repetitious with Simon unconscious in bed and Claire gasping for breath. Naturally, it’s all about a heart, so why shouldn’t it tear on our own heartstrings, too? The musical background is no support, dragging the atmosphere even further down into hopelessness; it would be better without any music at all.

This is based on a 2005 bestseller Ot Réparer les Vivants by French writer Maylis de Keangal. Director Quillévéré said, “Receiving the heart of a stranger, who has died a natural death, forces the recipient to review his/her own goals in life.” It was filmed in an abandoned wing of a real hospital and the crew was in touch with an actual medical environment. Perhaps most interesting are the members of the cast. Tahar Rahim might be familiar from his role in Fatih Akin’s film The Cut, where he plays a war veteran from Armenia. Emmanuelle Seigner is the spouse of director Roman Polanski and has made films with him as well as other prominent directors. Anne Dorval has worked with young, French-Canadian Xavier Dolan, whose films have played at the Filmfest Hamburg. If you blossom in swells of medical terminology and are interested in heart surgery, this is the film for you. (Becky Tan)

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