Reviews

Listen to Your Own Heartbeat: Katell Quillévére‘s 'Heal the Living'

Emmanuelle Seigner, Kool Shen, and Gabin Verdet

The film traces loss and what comes after, the process of acceding to pain and encountering fears and anguish, and the implacable order of hospitals.


Heal the Living (Réparer les vivants)

Director: Katell Quillévéré
Cast: Tahar Rahim, Emmanuelle Seigner, Anne Dorval
Rated: NR
Studio: Cohen Media Group
Year: 2016
US date: 2017-04-14 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer
"I hope [viewers will] listen to their heartbeat in a new way. I hope that the film will have suggested some new ways of considering this organ that is the heart, at once a fascinating muscle and the keeper of our emotions, our soul."

-- Katell Quillévére

Heal the Living opens with the sound of breathing. Seventeen-year-old Simon (Gabin Verdet) wakes to see his girlfriend Juliette (Galatéa Bellugi) sleeping beside him, as their breathing together creates a soothing, essential rhythm. It's before dawn, and Simon is soon out of bed and on his way to the beach, to surf. As he rides his bicycle, the camera hovers and follows him, creating another rhythm, swift and lovely, when Simon's friend, riding a skateboard, glides up beside him on the street. Together, they make their way along the empty streets to a waiting van, driven by a third friend. With that, they're off -- to the deep blue, early morning waves.

As Simon and his friends surf, encircled by water and in sync with its thrilling cadences, you sense a coming change. Headed home, the boys' van crashes, but you don't see it, you only hear the catastrophe over a black screen. Katell Quillévéré's film then follows people reckoning with Simon's death, or more specifically, his brain death. Simon's terrible limbo state predictably raises questions, for his distraught parents, Marianne (Emmanuelle Seigner) and Vincent (Kool Shen), and the young organ donor consultant, Thomas (Tahar Rahim), who knows their loss might mean a new chance at life, a new chance at pulsing movement -- for someone else.

In posing such possibilities, Heal the Living takes up other stories, following doctors and nurses and organ transportation crews, and eventually finding Claire (Anne Dorval), the eventual recipient of Simon's heart. These stories intersect and veer apart by accident, but for you, following the order imposed by the film, they soon appear destined to come together. Another sense of destiny emerges in the characters who must make sense of tragedy and shock. They seek reasons for what's happened, how a car crash might have been avoided, how a heart condition has evolved over time.

The film traces loss and what comes after, the process of acceding to pain and encountering fears and anguish, and the implacable order of hospitals. Initially opposed to the very idea of cutting up his son's still breathing body to provide organs for others, Vincent heads to his workshop and dons his mask, sparks flying and sander grinding. If his face is hidden, Marianne's is insistently visible: a close-up shot shows her waiting for him, her ears covered by noise-cancelling headphones, her eyes red and face fallen, her transition from horror to grief to knowing what she wants to do is apparent in a scant few seconds of screen time.

Claire and her sons wrestle with decisions and lack of choices. When her surgeon Lucie (Dominique Blanc) urges her to take the chance, Claire wonders, "I’m not sure I want a dead person’s heart. Maybe my time has come. My heart will stop. That’s nature." Repeatedly, it's the doctors and technicians who must articulate opportunities and limits, their understandings premised on what they've seen of human bodies, the movements and rhythms that define them. The distance between doctors and patients and their family members remains wide, another way of imposing order on confusion and dread. Sounds in the hospital make the very space seem utterly alien to patients: cries in the hallway, elevator dings, gurneys tracking. And yet it's a daily workplace for those employed: the camera follows behind Thomas as he walks, observes a nurse (Monia Chokri) as she recalls with a colleague a sensual other life; that is, the night before with her boyfriend.

These figure and camera movements are as entrancing as those showing Simon in life, as he rides his bike, as he surfs, as he breathes. In the hospital, after his life is over, others go on, shaped by pain and surprise, hope and resilience, these sounds accompany careful visual compositions, the blues of Simon's life echoed in hospital partitions, packaging, and surgeons' gowns. Divisions melt into overlaps, as nurses speak to unconscious bodies, soothing their patients as well as themselves. As other medical workers track donor organs, wash pale dead limbs, or speak gently with desolate relatives, you're increasingly aware of the many fleeting junctures and overlaps that comprise just one night in their lives.

Other overlaps, in the form of flashbacks, tend to sentimentalize Simon's innocence, his youthful beauty, his first moments with Juliette (walking, the camera tracking, again), his inability to anticipate the black screen that lies ahead. Such fragmentation of time offers little insight into the character named Simon. It does set up for a moment that comes late, when he seems to be in the hospital, that difficult place, looking out a window and then back at the camera, a moment devised to underline the loss and the letting go for viewers, rather than anyone on screen. It's unnecessary: by now, you're aware of your own rhythms.

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

Zadie Smith's 'Intimations' Essays Pandemic With Erudite Wit and Compassion

Zadie Smith's Intimations is an essay collection of gleaming, wry, and crisp prose that wears its erudition lightly but takes flight on both everyday and lofty matters.

Music

Phil Elverum Sings His Memoir on 'Microphones in 2020'

On his first studio album under the Microphones moniker since 2003, Phil Elverum shows he has been recording the same song since he was a teenager in the mid-1990s. Microphones in 2020 might be his apex as a songwriter.

Music

Washed Out's 'Purple Noon' Supplies Reassurance and Comfort

Washed Out's Purple Noon makes an argument against cynicism simply by existing and sounding as good as it does.

Music

'Eight Gates' Is Jason Molina's Stark, Haunting, Posthumous Artistic Statement

The ten songs on Eight Gates from the late Jason Molina are fascinating, despite – or perhaps because of – their raw, unfinished feel.

Film

Apocalypse '45 Uses Gloriously Restored Footage to Reveal the Ugliest Side of Our Nature

Erik Nelson's gorgeously restored Pacific War color footage in Apocalypse '45 makes a dramatic backdrop for his revealing interviews with veterans who survived the brutality of "a war without mercy".

Music

12 Brilliant Recent Jazz Albums That Shouldn't Be Missed

There is so much wonderful creative music these days that even an apartment-bound critic misses too much of it. Here is jazz from the last 18 months that shouldn't be missed.

Music

Blues Legend Bobby Rush Reinvigorates the Classic "Dust My Broom" (premiere)

Still going strong at 86, blues legend Bobby Rush presents "Dust My Broom" from an upcoming salute to Mississippi blues history, Rawer Than Raw, rendered in his inimitable style.

Music

Folk Rock's the Brevet Give a Glimmer of Hope With "Blue Coast" (premiere)

Dreamy bits of sunshine find their way through the clouds of dreams dashed and lives on the brink of despair on "Blue Coast" from soulful rockers the Brevet.

Music

Michael McArthur's "How to Fall in Love" Isn't a Roadmap (premiere)

In tune with classic 1970s folk, Michael McArthur weaves a spellbinding tale of personal growth and hope for the future with "How to Fall in Love".

Film

Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.

Music

The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.

Music

Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.

Music

Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.

Music

Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.

Film

The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.

Music

Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.

Music

Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.

Music

Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.