Irreplaceable (2016) Directed by Thomas Lilti. With François Cluzet, Marianne Denicourt, Christophe Odent.
Originally titled Médecin de campagne but converted to Irreplaceable for English language audiences, this mature French drama is the work of Thomas Lilti (director and co-writer) – an intimate story about Jean Pierre (François Cluzet), a respected country doctor dealing with a life-changing health diagnosis amid his own reticence to accept help in the form of Marianne Denicourt as his dedicated deputy.
A veteran of French cinema, Cluzet is a natural screen actor who can covey the smallest moments of subconscouis drama with the deftest of touches. Here, he does exactly that, playing between the spaces of a man in denial and need. His screen relationship with Marianne Denicourt is one of a slowly forming respect and good humour, that, along with an earthy aesthetic and seasoned writing allows them to conjure a relationship that gives us many a reason to care.
The intimacy of the portrait is what gives the film its appeal. There’s no grandstanding to elevate the drama, more an unprocessed effort to remain faithful to life, which is a mirror of Cluzet’s intuitive ability to not only act, but interact with his co-star, Denicourt, who through her work gently illuminates Jean Pierre’s world with a sense of solicitude.
It’d be easy dismiss such a low key offering as little more than incidental, but that would be a mistake. Lilti crafts a thoughtful piece that encourages a focus on the quality of life and the value of kindness.