Review: Repair les vivants (2016)

Repair les vivants (2016)

Directed by: Katell Quillevére | 104 minutes | drama | Actors: Tahar Rahim, Emmanuelle Seigner, Anne Dorval, Bouli Lanners, Kool Shen, Monia Chokri, Alice Taglioni, Karim Leklou, Finnegan Oldfield, Théo Cholbi, Alice de Lencquesaing, Gabin Verdet, Galatéa Bellugi, Titouan Alda, Andranic Manet, Irina Muluile

It’s actually too bizarre for words. A heart that in the morning still beats in the chest of a young surfer, tries 24 hours later to beat in the chest of a middle-aged woman, a culture lover, mother and bon vivant. We see how this is done in the French feature film ‘Réparer les vivants’, based on the novel by Maylis de Kerangal. In the film we experience the last hours of Simon, a young surfer who falls into a coma after a car accident. And we experience the fraught hours before and during the operation of Claire, a woman with progressive heart disease.

‘Réparer les vivants’ gives us a glimpse into a fascinating world. From the agency that coordinates all transplants to the team of specialists that have to test, excise and transport the heart at lightning speed. And we experience the eventual heart operation, fortunately not very bloody but detailed enough.

Much more than a film about an organ donation, this is a portrayal of the people who perform it. The exhausted nurse who takes loving care of Simon, the devoted doctor and his assistant who have to cut out the heart and fly back at lightning speed, the surgeon who has to transplant the heart, all those small links that make this great miracle possible. We all get to know them a little bit and because of the emotional impact of the subject we empathize with them all. Also with Claire, despite (or because of) that one sneaky cigarette.

‘Réparer les vivants’ is also a film about love. The love for the child, the love for a friend, the love of Claire’s anxious sons for their sick mother, the love of the doctors for their profession. And love for life, with all its ups and downs.

All this at a leisurely pace, in which events follow each other quickly enough to never get boring. Visually, the drama is also worth seeing, with beautiful surf scenes, an original depiction of the traffic accident and melancholy flashbacks. With wonderful music and a cast without weak links.

After the gripping family drama ‘Suzanne’ (2013), ‘Réparer les vivants’ is the second hit in a row for the young director Katell Quillévéré. A film about a world where we can pass life from one person to another within 24 hours. Not for money or fame but driven by compassion and dedication. If that’s not hopeful…

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