This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit disabilityarts.online.

Disability Arts Online

Untouchable (2011) starring Fran├žois Cluzet and Omar Sy / 19 November 2012

film still of a man dragging a wheelchair-user backwards through thick snow

Omar Sy and Fran├žois Cluzet star in a French comedy about a disabled man and his carer - 'Untouchable"

Zoom in to this image and read text description

Released on 21 September, Untouchable is a French comedy-drama film directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano

This French film has received a lot of hype since its world premiere at the San Sebastian Festival on September 24 this year. Normally the films surrounding the hype are good, just not fantastic. This film however, seems to live up to the hype.

It takes a refreshing look at disability, following Philippe (François Cluzet), a quadriplegic and his growing friendship with his new care worker, Driss (Omar Sy). There is a scene where Philippe is holding interviews for the position of the care worker, that highlights brilliantly the small-minded prejudicial comments that disabled people have to hear all the time - off-handed and ignorant comments made by people who often do not even realise they are being offensive.

Comments such as the one made by one of candidates for the job as he says how important he thinks sports are to a person’s general well-being, implying that Philippe needs to take up sport. There is also a candidate who thinks he is some kind of martyr. When he is asked why he wants the job he answers that he loves disabled people. Applying for the job and claiming to know disabled people somehow makes him a distinguished do-gooder in his own mind.

There is also a lot of treading around egg shells by people not sure of what to say, how to act and apologising for comments that could be seen as offensive, which is handled well. Due to the fact Philippe has been surrounded by these types of people, he is struck by the general ease with which Driss behaves around Philippe and how Driss does not show pity; is not condescending, nor does he care that some of what he says could be offensive. Driss behaves around Philippe as he would any other person, which to Philippe is like a breath of fresh air.

The film is based around the developing friendship between Driss and Philippe. Driss is disabled in the socio-economic sense, as he has grown up in a deprived community, never having a break. He does not get the experience he needs to get a good job or any job.

Despite this however, Driss has a huge amount of charm, mostly thanks to Omar Sy’s cheeky smile, youthful energy and great delivery. The script is flawless and such a joy. There is also a great few moments where the film pokes a little fun at slightly pompous people, those who feel superior by watching something high brow, in effect it pokes fun at people who will have gone to see this movie for a 'cultural experience' rather than because of the subject, script, or acting.

This film shows real people and is sincere in its message that no matter how we look or what our circumstances are, we are all human beings and just want to laugh, cry, feel and have fun like everyone else.