Screened as part of NZIFF 2016
This gentle, good-humoured film about a doctor (François Cluzet) facing illness himself and reluctantly inducting a younger city doctor (Marianne Denicourt) into his country practice has been a great hit in France. Upholding the humane values embodied by the old-style GP, it has clearly touched a vein of nostalgia which may run just as deep in New Zealand. Co-writer and director Thomas Lilti is himself a qualified medical practitioner, and not one given to sentimentality. (Anyone who saw his film Hippocrates at this year’s French Film Festival can vouch for the refreshing sense of experience that lifted it apart from standard hospital dramas.)
Cluzet (The Intouchables) is fascinating as an immensely recognisable character, single (with an adult son in Paris), wedded to his work, tacitly empathetic beneath the brusque, brooking-no-fools demeanour. Denicourt as Natalie is an excellent foil, the doctor’s match in so many ways, but shrewdly respectful of his self-defining conviction that he is irreplaceable. It’s a view clearly shared by a lively array of farming folk who parade through his surgery, or, in some of the film’s most touching and memorable scenes, usher him, doctor’s bag in hand, into their houses.
“The Country Doctor finally plays out as a strongly observational character drama that suggests something about who these people are and how they deal with what’s thrown at them while also painting a convincing picture of everyday life in rural France in the 21st-century and medical care… The film bristles with humor, mostly drawn from life, and illuminating moments of irony.” — Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood Reporter