Heal the Living

| August 27, 2017

Heal the Living is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms on August 29. Director and co-writer Katell Quillévéré’s film, adapted from the Booker Prize long listed novel by Maylis de Kerangal, is an elegant and moving drama about families brought together by shocking news. Quillévéré carefully weaves together three seemingly unrelated stories: a French teenager and his friends on a surfing road trip that leads to tragedy; a woman in another town who learns that her weak heart is beginning to fail and action must be taken; and two teams of doctors and medical experts who struggle through their day-to-day attempts to save lives.

These plot threads are tied together in unexpected ways, creating an emotionally intense drama involving estranged parents, family secrets and a tragic accident. Ultimately, Heal the Living is an impassioned story of personal connections that philosophically, spiritually and literally plumbs the depths of the human heart.

Emmanuelle Seigner (Venus in Fur, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), Tahar Rahim (Grand Central, The Informant), Anne Dorval (Mommy, Heartbeats) and screen newcomer Gabin Verdet star in this moving and eloquent film.

How does one mom say goodbye to a son who has been pronounced brain dead after a surfing accident? How does another mom tell her youngest son that she is dealing with heart failure? And how do the physicians involved in these cases perform their duties in a thoughtful, considerate manner? All these questions and more are answered in this poignant film.

Heal the Living is appropriately titled, because the first medical emergency served more to help the young man’s parents than it did him. The second medical emergency allowed the mom to tie up some loose ends and bring her sons closer together. I enjoyed Heal the Living, and was compelled to pay close attention, since it was subtitled. It’s hard to cook and watch the words crawling across the screen, without rapt attention. I really felt for the first family; the parents were estranged, and there was a younger sibling. After being convinced that their son wouldn’t breathe again on his own, the family was faced with the question of organ donation, which had not been broached by the son or his parents before. The physicians were finally able to persuade them that this would be a good idea and would serve to bring renewed life to so many others.

The issue of the heart transplant really caught my eye, as well, because I have a family member who has been living with a new heart for nearly 14 years now. The surgery in full color was amazing; this part of the film brought everything to life and further illustrated the compassion on the part of the physicians involved.

Heal the Living is such a great film. The characters speak for themselves individually and speak for one another, as the stories are brought together.

Guy Lodge of Variety said, “Katell Quillévéré’s superb third feature is a wrenching medical drama that blends dazzling formal polish with rawest emotion.” He added that the film “boasts beautifully pitched performances from a handpicked cast … But it’s Quillévéré’s soaring visual and sonic acumen (with an assist from composer Alexandre Desplat, here in matchless form) that suffuses a potentially familiar hospital weeper with true grace.” Screen Daily‘s Lisa Nesselson said, “Superbly cast, Heal the Living brings to life the many subtly interlocking characters in Maylis de Kerangal’s popular 2014 novel.” Kristin M. Jones, writing in Film Comment, said the film “assembles an array of sensitive performances, but it takes place on a more metaphysical plane. Its characters often seem to have stepped outside the normal flow of time.”

For more information about Heal the Living, visit http://www.cohenmedia.net/films/heal-the-living.

About the Author:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago. She is the author of "Old School Adventures from Englewood--South Side of Chicago" and the proud parent of "the smart rapper"--chemist-turned-rapper, turned humanitarian...Psalm One!
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