Thursday, April 13, 2017

Heal the Living: Follow the Beating Heart

Simon Limbres is a brain-dead teenager. Tragically, this is literally true in his case. As the term implies, his heart is indeed still beating. Perhaps it will keep pumping for someone on the transplant list, if the Le Havre hospital’s organ donation team can convince Limbres’ parents and then harvest and transplant in time. It is difficult to rush grieving parents like the Limbreses, but we also meet the prospective recipient and her two highly concerned sons in Katell Quillévéré’s Heal the Living (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

After sleeping with his girlfriend, Limbres snuck out for some early morning surfing with his mates. He would be the one who wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. By the time Dr. Pierre Révol, the chief of surgery starts the morning shift, Limbres is already gone. Frankly, he never had a chance. At this point, Thomas Rémige, the transplant specialist, is the only doctor on staff who can still do some good on Limbres’ case. However, the Limbres parents are really not ready to have the discussion.

Meanwhile in Paris, Claire’s twentysomething sons have moved her into a flat directly across the street from her hospital. Maxime and Sam bicker like cats and dogs, but they both realize their mother is fading fast. She needs a heart, fast.

In a way, Heal is a throwback to the sort of earnest, humanistically engaged contemporary dramas Paddy Chayefsky and Reginald Rose used to write during the Golden Age of television. However, Quillévéré’s visual approach is surprisingly stylish, which is a nice bonus.

Emmanuelle Seigner and Kool Shen (playing against his bad boy type) are pretty darned devastating as the semi-estranged Limbres parents. Yet, the poignant way they turn towards each other rather than away really elevates the film. Bouli Lanners is realistically no-nonsense as Dr. Révol, whereas Tahar Rahim is suitably awkward but sensitive as Rémige. However, it is Dominique Blanc who really inspires confidence while also projecting a rather elegant, sophisticated, and altogether French bedside manner as Claire’s doctor, Lucie Moret.

Heal certainly wears its transplanted heart on its sleeve, but it is not cheaply sentimental. Most of the cliched scenes you would expect (like the Limbreses bitterly hurling recriminations at each other) simply are not there, because Quillévéré & Gilles Taurand’s adaptation of Maylis de Kerangal’s source novel goes in an entirely different direction. Recommended for fans of medical dramas, Heal the Living opens tomorrow (4/14) in New York, at the freshly reopened Quad Cinema.