Heal The Living, 2016.
Directed by Katelle Quillevere.
Starring Emmanuelle Seigner, Tahar Rahim, Anne Dorval, and Gabin Verdet.
The lives of a number of people – a young man, his parents, a woman with a heart condition, medical staff – are all connected by a single accident. One that shatters a family and gives new life to somebody they’ll never know.
It’s a situation nobody wants to be in, yet many find themselves there. The moment when you’re told that a loved one isn’t going to live. Devastating enough on its own. But then comes the question you don’t want to hear, but has to be asked at that moment. Organ donation. For the parents of teenage surfer Simon (Gabin Verdet) in Katelle Quillevere’s Heal The Living, who’s in a coma after a car accident, it’s another hammer blow and one they’re not prepared for in any way.
They’re just one part of this multi-stranded story. The film then switches to a mature woman, Claire (Anne Dorval) who, it emerges, is not well. She has a heart condition, one that her medication barely keeps under control, and she’s had to contend with being permanently tired, breathless and having her life ruled by her illness. She’s a candidate for a heart transplant. When that will be nobody knows, but she has to keep her phone on all the time, ready for that crucial call.
Then there’s the third story, the one about the medics. The doctors at the hospital where Simon is kept on a ventilator, until it’s established he won’t survive. The transplant team, responsible for removing his heart and transporting it. At the other end of the chain, Claire’s medical team at another hospital, miles away. And linking it all together is one young doctor, Thomas (a deeply moving Tahar Rahim) who looks after Simon. He’s the compassionate doctor that everybody would want to look after them, and wise beyond his years.
For a film that appears to be about death, it’s actually about life: giving life in the midst of death and those ties that connect us, even if we’re not aware of them or don’t know the people concerned. It makes for heightened emotions: when Thomas presides over the last words and music for Simon, the doctor’s dignity makes it almost unbearable. The ensemble cast are all impressive, with stand-out performances from Rahim and Emmanuelle Seigner at Simon’s mother, shell shocked, tear-stained yet constantly fighting to hold everything together.
It would be too easy to describe Heal The Living as heart rending or heart breaking. It’s all that, but the words are too facile. Better to say that it’s a meditation on death, life, love and respect. And, at times, uncomfortably real.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★