Thoughts on "The Intouchables"

It’s obvious from the start that Phillipe and Driss have little in common. Phillipe is a privileged aristocrat who loves classical music, poetry, and contemporary art. Driss is an ex-con, raised in the projects with no father in sight. Yet, these two men connect in what is obviously a meaningful, treasured relationship for both of them.

After watching this film, I can see four central messages for caregivers and care recipients alike:

Sometimes professionalism creates distance in a relationship. The film sets this up from some of the first scenes in the movie as potential caregivers interview with Philippe. Each one of them is prepared and proper. Driss, on the other hand, is not an Eldercare Professional, not in those first scenes nor in the final ones. In one scene, he accidentally touches Philippe’s leg with a hot teapot, and seeing no reaction, tries pouring hot water on Philippe’s leg. Another caregiver is horrified (as I would be!), but Philippe just asks Driss whether he’s done experimenting. In another scene, Driss shaves Philippe’s facial hair into various hilarious fashions, concluding with the tiny mustache seen on Adolf Hitler. These are just two examples of how Driss does not shy away from Philippe’s disability, and rather than coming across as disrespectful and unprofessional, it seems that Driss is treating Philippe like a man first and foremost, with the disability as a secondary – and sometimes humorous – characteristic. I certainly would not advocate making fun of someone’s physical disability, but I do appreciate that walking on eggshells around a person with a disability could actually hurt more than help when it comes to feelings of isolation from the non-disabled public. Caregivers can be vulnerable, too. Part of having a real relationship with another person is allowing vulnerability for both parties – the care recipient and the caregiver. Here, some of the difficulties in Driss’s personal life make their way into the movie, necessitating compassion and understanding on Philippe’s part as well. In a more lighthearted scene, Driss tries paragliding along with Philippe, and he is absolutely terrified. How wonderful is it, though, that he’s willing to try that out in front of his employer? Music makes connections. I always love to see musical moments, and this movie has several! In their first meeting, Driss tells Philippe he should be listening to Earth, Wind, and Fire rather than Berlioz. Later, Driss accompanies Philippe to an opera, breaking out in laughter when Philippe tells him it will be four hours long. Then, Philippe has a chamber music concert for his birthday party, which Driss listens to respectfully. During the clean-up time, though, Driss puts Earth, Wind, and Fire on the record player, and everyone starts dancing. You can see that Philippe can feel the rhythm of the music and the dance, even though he can’t move his body on his own. This musical moment is one of the most powerful in the movie, I think. In any case, I think it’s especially telling that these men connect through music even though they don’t have the same music preferences. Sometimes we put too much weight on preferred music, when people can connect through non-preferred music as well. Nothing is more healing that a quality, human relationship. The central message of this movie is that both men find joy and healing in their friendship, despite their differences. Theirs is much more than an employee-employer relationship, and because of it, Philippe finds new happiness in his family relationships, Driss finds out that he can be a productive, valuable member of society rather than just another ex-con, and both men try new things and share new experiences. Pills and procedures and protocols simply cannot do all the work of healing. This movie is a heartwarming delight, and I would definitely recommend checking it out!]]>


  1. Karen H. on July 20, 2012 at 7:46 am

    I saw the trailer a few weeks ago and thought it looked interesting, but now I really want to see it! Thanks for the review!

    • soundscapemusictherapy on July 20, 2012 at 8:00 am

      You’re welcome! I think you’ll like it.

  2. JoAnn Jordan (@JordanEM) on July 20, 2012 at 8:31 am

    We need human contact and quality interactions to survive and to thrive. It is our unique qualities that make the world a richer place to live. You have created an interest in my seeing the film. I hope it is available.

    • soundscapemusictherapy on July 20, 2012 at 8:36 am

      Agreed, JoAnn! I hope this movie makes it out your way.

  3. Ann Becker-Schutte (@DrBeckerSchutte) on July 22, 2012 at 9:48 pm


    This is a preview that we saw recently, and we noted it as something that we’d like to see. I appreciate your strengthening that resolution. And I love the themes that you noted–particularly the potential for healing when we have genuine relationships with one another.


    • soundscapemusictherapy on July 23, 2012 at 8:51 am

      I hope you do get to see it, Ann. I love the relationship aspect in this movie for sure!

  4. Lynda Buitrago on July 23, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Learning these themes in the film make me very interested in seeing it. Thanks, Rachelle!

    • soundscapemusictherapy on July 24, 2012 at 12:31 pm

      I hope you do get to see it, Lynda!

  5. Carolyn Stone on July 23, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Hi Rachelle,
    I like the point about the limitations of professional distance. It’s so important to meet the people we help as people. Yet that makes us more vulnerable. And now I do want to see this movie! I like opera and Earth, Wind and Fire!

    • soundscapemusictherapy on July 24, 2012 at 12:33 pm

      Yes, the issue of professional distance is tricky. Boundaries are necessary for sure, but sometimes it’s easier to to create more distance in the name of professionalism than to have a deeper relationship with a person. I hope you do get to see this movie!

  6. Spiritual Vistas on July 24, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Your review made me laugh and appreciate the humanity of simply connecting with one another as people. I imagine the movie must do so much more so. It is awesome when the arts help us to connect with life on a deeper level. Thanks for sharing.

    • soundscapemusictherapy on July 24, 2012 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks! I hope you get a chance to see the movie, too.

  7. Kevin M. Nedd on October 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    I have seen this movie several times. The final scene always brings me to tears. I make it a point to recommend it to friends who all thank me after seeing it.

    • soundscapemusictherapy on October 29, 2012 at 6:41 pm

      It is a great movie, isn’t it? I’m glad you’re recommending it to others , too.

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