Review / ‘The Country Doctor’ (M) *** and a half

AT the recent French Film Festival, every screening of writer/director Thomas Lilti’s film about middle-aged GP Jean-Pierre (Francois Cluzet), diagnosed in the opening sequence with a cerebral tumour that may respond to chemo, who for decades has cared for the health and well-being of a small rural community, was a sellout.

I live in a small rural community fortunate to have a privately-owned medical centre for which house calls are the exception rather than the rule. Jean-Pierre makes numerous house calls as well as surgery consultations. The regional CMO sends a new graduate to help him.

Oh, dear. Into this community where Jean-Pierre is a household name comes Nathalie (Marianne Denicourt), city raised and rurally naive, a winsome woman fresh from med school that she entered after 10 years as a nurse.

In delineating the film’s gentle tensions and conflicts, Jean-Pierre’s local knowledge versus Nathalie’s by-the-book approach is often the driving force.

For example, Monsieur Sorlin (Guy Faucher) at 92 is immobilised at home in the care of family and a paid nurse. Jean-Pierre has promised that he will stay in familiar surroundings until the end. Nathalie says he should be hospitalised.

Ninon (Margaux Fabre) is a plump farm girl whose fiancé rejects modern fertility controls in favour of termination – she’s already had two. That’s a poignant lost cause unless she tells him the relationship must end. The possible autism of Alexis (Yohann Goetzmann) has gone undiagnosed into early adulthood. But his memory is exceptional and his knowledge of World War I is scholarly.

Numerous brief house calls might seem to make the film a bit bitty, which it is but not in an annoying way.

Filmmaker Lilti’s second film about his other profession – he’s a GP – is charming, compassionate, credible and commendable in its verity and depiction of French rural life.

And when the villagers want to let off steam, they put on American Western clothes and go line-dancing to American music – except for Nina Simone’s French version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. When did you last hear Frankie Laine’s hit song telling us about those Ghost Riders in the Sky?

At Palace Electric

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One Response to “Review / ‘The Country Doctor’ (M) *** and a half”

  1. CineMuseFilms
    April 13, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

    I really enjoyed this fine example of French romantic drama. It is totally driven by characterisation that is earthy, understated and open-hearted with a rich rural aesthetic that evokes the mutual dependencies that are typical amongst country people. You cannot help but leave the cinema with a warm inner glow.

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