Opening 14 Dec 2017
Benjamin’s (Pauly) grand plans for a future in the world of sports come to an abrupt end when an accident sends him to the hospital, more or less paralyzed from the neck down. The male nurse Jean-Marie (Alban Ivanov) talks to him in the third person, “Does he want a blanket now?” Slowly he can wiggle his left big toe and about a year later (or 30 minutes into the film), he as recovered sufficiently to sit in a wheel chair, leave his sickroom and race around the hospital in the company of others in the same situation: Faride (Geurrab), Steeve (Falise), and Toussaint (Mansaly).They have been in this rehabilitation center for a long time, with little hope of any future normal life. Still, they cope masterfully, no deep depression here. They discuss other patients, listen to Bob Marley music, and even escape into the woods on a wild trip. They eat lunch together in the center’s cafeteria. Try to pass the salt when you sit paralyzed in a wheelchair. Ben and Samia (Harzoune) exchange loving glances.
We experience life from Benjamin’s perspective: look at the ceiling for hours, strain to talk on the phone, and pee without privacy. At the same time, we realize that handicapped people are also normal human beings with wishes and goals. Director Grand Corps Malade began his career as a hugely successful hip hop singer in France. A false jump into a swimming pool changed his life and he renamed himself (originally Fabien Marsaud) Grand Corps Malade or “big sick body.” He slowly recovered, and now walks with a cane. He was always interested in words and participated in Poetry Slams in France; he began composing music to go with his poetry and now his albums are tops on the French charts. No idea is too difficult to materialize for this multitalented, now 40-year-old; he wrote a book, Patient, about his own experience, which then led to a script and a film. Many of the film’s characters and events are based on this true experience and were filmed in his former rehabilitation center. His co-director Mehdi Idir is the same age, also from France; he started as a hip-hop dancer, began making videos, then a documentary about hip hop. This is the first feature film for both directors and it is hugely successful. I went out of the cinema with a smile on my face; now I “see” handicapped people with different eyes and, hopefully, much more understanding and respect. (Becky Tan)