The Intouchables

JAMES MITCHELL finds that subtitles are sexy, even if a girl still remains Intouchable after the date.


Directed by Olivier Nakache

Picking the right film to take a girl on a first date can be a tricky business.

Some people swear by the power of the horror film to help move things along: scare them shitless and they’ll be falling into your arms in no time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work quite as well if, like me, you end up wailing into their blouse and screaming for your mother.

The more traditionalists tend to opt for the “Rom-Com” as their date-film genre of choice. But with leading men who look like Ryan Gosling, delivering perfectly formed ad-libbed speeches (often in the rain) I often find that when the lights come back on I am greeted with a look of bitter disappointment.

That is why I favour the French foreign film for the first date. There’s often a liberal dose of intimacy to get the blood flowing and he or she is bound to be impressed by your obvious cultural awareness. So when I saw that box office hit “The Intouchables” was voted the cultural event of 2011 in France, I knew I was probably on to a winner.

Mind you, leaving aside the seduction benefits, there are few things more likely to put me off a film than subtitles and French cultural awards. Who really wants to read the script at the bottom of the screen when the actors above are speaking some unintelligible foreign language?

Nevertheless, and counter intuitive as it may seem, the subtitles in the Intouchables made the whole experience very accessible. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that had I carried on French past GCSE level, I might well have laughed less than I did. As it happened, my rudimentary understanding of the langue d’amour forced me to focus on the written text at the bottom of the screen and soak up the brilliantly worded script with all its subtleties.

And it’s not just the script but the incredible performances of the two leading actors, François Cluzet and Omar Sy, that made this film such a joy to watch. Cluzet plays Phillipe, a wealthy, somewhat eccentric quadriplegic in need of 24 hour assistance. His tastes are refined, but he is bored of being pitied and treated first and foremost as an invalid.

Enter Driss, played by Sy, a French immigrant with a dysfunctional family life and living on the wrong side of town. Driss applies for the job of carer, but only in view of getting his benefit slip signed. Intrigued by his almost callous disregard, almost absentmindedness, towards his physical condition, Phillipe chooses to hire him and an unlikely friendship ensues.

As such, the film revolves around the weaknesses of both characters. For Phillipe it is physical, whereas for Driss it is socio-economic. And inevitably, despite their differences, they find a way to help each other.

But, critically for me, this turned out to be an excellent first-date film. Having singularly failed to impress my new friend earlier in the evening (by taking her to Nandos and claiming my free chicken), this film managed to turn things round. For any of you in a similar position, the warm fuzziness the Intouchables will generate is bound to guarantee at least a goodnight kiss.

So hurry and down and see it. I can honestly say it’s the best film I’ve seen all week.