Heal the Living

This French film from 2014 follows two families: the parents of Simon (Tahar Rahim, Emmanuelle Seigner, Gabin Verdet), a 17-year-old boy who’s left brain dead after a car accident; and Claire (Anne Dorval), a mother with a weak heart who is in need of a donation.

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This a poignant film which excellently tackles the important but emotionally charged issue of organ donation in a sober and realistic way. While for many the choice of Simon’s parents is an obvious one, they’re forced to make a decision very shortly after finding out their son is gone, due to the limited amount of time he can be kept alive.

This is the most interesting aspect of the film, with naturalistic performances from both parents but particularly Seigner as Simon’s mother. The clinical staff are also very well acted. The scenes in which they’re forced to inform the parents of their child’s condition and also brooch the subject of using his organs are some of the most difficult to watch, really driving home the unenviable, emotionally draining but crucial job medical professionals do around the world every day.heal-the-living-768x539-c-default

The strand of the film which deals with Claire is entirely disconnected from this since donors and donees are not allowed to know each others’ identities. The scenes in which Claire struggles with her illness, and tries to hide the worst from her sons, are effective, although this side of the film is weaker than that dealing with Simon’s family.

It’s excellently directed with particularly notable photography, especially during the film’s opening few scenes. The accurate reconstruction of a heart transplant operation is absolutely fascinating (if not for the squeamish), and better than the equivalent scene in Vice where Dick Cheney has his heart removed. The result is a mature and intelligent film about something which is simultaneously extraordinary and everyday, which hopefully inspired some people to sign up as organ donors before it’s too late.

In the UK you can sign up as an organ donor with the NHS.

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