Médecin de Campagne (Irreplaceable)
Thomas Lilti’s latest feature offers a highly subtle, if not wholly original, argument for the perks of learning to care rather than simply cure. The plot centres around Jean-Pierre, a dedicated doctor in rural France, who is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour and suddenly finds himself needing to train his replacement.
The juxtaposition of the gruff but compassionate Jean-Pierre (François Cluzet) with his initially cold protege Nathalie (Marianne Denicourt) drives the story much in the way an audience might expect, having likely seen similar characters time and time again. The fact that she is newly qualified only adds to the impression of Nathalie’s character as a fish out of water. Indeed, it is evident that winning over this small town will be no small task, as one man baldly turns her away from his home: “I’ll wait for the doctor,” she’s told, before the door is shut in her face.
Events such as these could easily lead viewers to see gender bias in some of the treatment toward Nathalie, but that does not seem to be Lilti’s intention. It appears instead that he wants to, as many have done before him, show his audience that not just anyone can grasp the emotional complexity of everyday life in the country. As the town and Jean-Pierre push Nathalie to rediscover her empathy and earn their trust, so too must we learn to see the bittersweet beauty hidden in “ordinary” life.
The direction and the cinematography combine to make a movie that is aesthetically and artfully charming, but at the same time not overly stylised, and the two talented leads unsurprisingly take to their characters with ease. Therefore Irreplaceable is a decent enough film with an interesting premise. But ironically, for all its subtlety, it never quite succeeds in stirring any substantial emotional engagement from it’s audience.
Médecin de Campagne (Irreplaceable) is released in selected cinemas on 13th January 2017.
Watch the trailer for Médecin de Campagne (Irreplaceable) here: