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aka - Epreuve d'une vie, L
France 2013
Directed by
Nils Tavernier
86 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Finishers, The

Although on one level formulaic and mercilessly sentimental this story of a disaffected father bonding with his seriously disabled son by partaking in an Ironman race is a moving film that only the stoniest of hearts could resist.

Much of the film’s success is due to the moving performance of Jacques Gamblin , a 17-year-old with congenital palsy who plays the central character, Julien.  It is he who takes the bulls by the horns so to speak as his self-pitying  father (Fabien Heraud), a former Ironman competitor who becomes increasingly  emotionally withdrawn after losing his job, largely ignoring Julien and his mother, Claire (Alexandra Lamy).

Director Nils Tavernier, the son of Bertrand, occasionally mis-steps as with a small sub-plot involving Julien’s crush on a wheelchair-bound young woman who appears not to be disabled and on over-staged gambit to change the minds of the race committee who initially reject Julien’s application to join the race but by-and-large he holds our attention by keeping the emotional pitch high and not letting go, moving from the family tensions to the preparations for the race to the race itself with focussed intensity and economy. Both Heraud and Lamy are effective in their strongly gendered roles. Laurent Machuel's cinematography of the family’s home in the mountains behind Nice and the real ironman race adds to the winning combination. Comparison with the 2012 hit The Intouchables is somewhat misleading. This is a far less sophisticated film on all levels but what it loses in glamour it gains in emotional  directness.




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