Heal the Living




A French masterpiece ties together the lives of various strangers interconnected by a 

single event.


Heal the Living

Emmanuelle Seigner and Kool Shen 


Like many great films, Heal the Living creeps up on the viewer with an almost nonchalant air. Little appears to happen in the opening scenes as, in the early hours of one Sunday morning, various characters go about their day. Then a single event reaches out its tentacles and pulls them all together. Tahar Rahim plays a young doctor whose empathy for his patients is in marked contrast to the gruff, no-nonsense approach of his senior (Bouli Lanners). Emmanuelle Seigner plays Marianne Limbres, a divorcee and mother of two who likes to sleep late. Her teenage son, Simon (Gabin Verdet), has recently charmed a fellow student, Juliette (Galatéa Bellugi), with his ability to be in two places at once. Simon also likes to surf and cycle around the byways of Le Havre, enjoying the freedom that his mother gives him. However, Marianne is not an inattentive parent – indeed, her knowledge of her son’s seventeen years borders on the encyclopaedic…


A story of mortality – and, in a way, immortality – Heal the Living is a hypnotic treatise on the human condition exquisitely played out by the French writer-director Katell Quillévéré (Love Like Poison, Suzanne). Unafraid to let her film daydream, Quillévéré guides Heal the Living effortlessly and fluently from one scenario to the next, allowing it to dip in and out of reverie as well as into the past and the present. Everybody has a role to play and Quillévéré only feeds us what is important at the time, be it a nurse’s sexual reverie in a lift or Simon’s own past seduction of Juliette. And as the film glides by, slipping from one character to another, we learn how significant we all are to each other, whether we know it or not.


The overall effect is not only engrossing and powerful but also resolutely profound. Quillévéré will tease us with a witty line of dialogue and then follow it with an unexpected twist. Her extraordinary talent recalls the narrative finesse of fellow French-speaker Denis Villeneuve. They truly are two giants of contemporary cinema, both willing to explore the expansive potential of their medium. As for Heal the Living, it is perhaps best to approach it with as little foreknowledge as possible and just let it draw you unknowing into its sensual mosaic.




Cast: Tahar Rahim, Emmanuelle Seigner, Anne Dorval, Bouli Lanners, Kool Shen, Monia Chokri, Alice Taglioni, Karim Leklou, Alice de Lencquesaing, Finnegan Oldfield, Théo Cholbi, Gabin Verdet, Dominique Blanc, Galatéa Bellugi.


Dir Katell Quillévéré, Pro David Thion, Justin Taurand and Philippe Martin, Screenplay Katell Quillévéré and Gilles Taurand, from the novel Réparer les vivants (Mend the Living) by Maylis de Kerangal, Ph Tom Harari, Pro Des Daniel Bevan, Ed Thomas Marchand, Music Alexandre Desplat, Costumes Isabelle Pannetier.


Les Films du Bélier/Les Films Pelléas-Artificial Eye.

103 mins. France/Belgium. 2016. Rel: 28 April 2017. Cert. 12A.