French Medical Drama ‘Hippocrates’ Feels Authentic and Alive


Having previously worked as a doctor, writer-director Thomas Lilti brings some real-world authenticity to Hippocrates: Diary of a French Doctor, in which 23-year-old intern Benjamin (Vincent Lacoste) gets his hands dirty — in more ways than one — working in an understaffed, underfunded Parisian hospital.

Eager Benjamin first finds himself in hot water when he fails to demand an ECG for a patient who subsequently dies — a mistake that’s covered up by his father (Jacques Gamblin), a superior happy to extend a nepotistic favor to his son.

That same generosity, however, isn’t afforded to Benjamin’s colleague Abdel (Reda Kateb), an Algerian doctor who’s forced to serve as an intern in France, and who winds up on the defensive after placing the physical and emotional welfare of a dying elderly woman (as well as the wishes of her family) above standard protocol.

Thorny issues regarding patient-caregiver relationships, cost-vs.-care tensions, and morality-vs.-rules dynamics are handled with a minimum of didacticism by Lilti, whose handheld camerawork provides a measure of immediacy without calling undue attention to itself. Though Lacoste comes across as a whinier version of Jesse Eisenberg, Hippocrates is bolstered by its mature recognition that, in health care as in life, personal and professional obligations and dilemmas are often messily intertwined — as well as difficult to fully resolve.

Hippocrates: Diary of a French Doctor

Written and directed by Thomas Lilti

Distrib Films

Opens June 19, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas

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