We were introduced to the film by someone from Cinemania and she told us that this film by Katell Quillévéré (Suzanne, Love Like Poison) called Réparer les Vivants was one of the programming committees’ favourites of last year. High praise. This leads to elevated expectations. Tough to live up to. While this film will not have you rushing to tell your friends about it there will be a slow percolation in regards to the film. It is a grower that will have you thinking about it and making an impression for days. Settle in, watch it and try to absorb all you can.
Three teenage boys are going surfing in the early hours of the morning. It is at an isolated location. Afterwards they are driving home along an empty road. The two in the rear fall asleep. In short order so does the driver. There is a big crash.
A phone rings at one of the teen’s mother’s house. She (Emmanuelle Seigner – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, La Vie en Rose) is told about the accident. When she arrives at the hospital the doctor (Bouli Lanners – Rust and Bone, A Very Long Engagement) in charge asks where the father (Kool Shen) is. She says they no longer live together and he is probably asleep not hearing the phone. The doctor continues with an explanation of her son’s (Gabin Verdet – frist film) condition. It is grave as he has had a serious brain injury due to not wearing a seatbelt. The situation is dire.
Once the father arrives the doctor tells the parents that their son is brain dead with no chance of recovery. Another doctor asks them about organ donation. That they can donate as few or as many of the viable organs as they wish. This comes as a brutal shock to the pair of parents. They leave the hospital in du Havre without making a decision.
At the same time in Paris, a middle aged woman (Anne Dorval – Mommy, J’ai Tué ma Mère) is told by her doctor that her heart has gotten worse. The defibrillator they have implanted is no longer enough. Her only hope is a heart transplant, so she will be put on the list. Two lives (and possibly more) hang in the balance.
The film is based on the novel by Maylis de Kerangal. It tells an almost metaphysical tale that is both filled with universal themes and feelings as well as being incredibly intimate. The story of death and organ donation from the point of view of the family of the donor and that of the recipient. Director Quillévéré deftly weaves together the stories while still allowing the range of emotions to burst through.
All is told using the sea as a metaphor for the turbulence all these lives are undergoing. The brain dead young man, the doctors and the women in need of a new heart are all now connected. Many lives are now reliant one upon the next and all have to deal with things they were not expecting. There is also a sea of emotions going on here. Shock, grief, hope, fear, calm, professionalism, and even happiness. Some you might not have thought about like how the medical professionals deal with such cases. How their professional standards sometimes are in conflict with human compassion. A side of this equation that we don’t ever think about or see on screen.
It is a film beautifully shot (also featuring a beautiful score by Alexandre Desplat) that turns around a moving subject. The pain and humanity of all that is involved is allowed time and space to breathe. A film that will stay with you and might even change the way you see or think about the issue.