Katell Quillévéré’s Mesmeric Melodrama “Heal the Living” Illuminates Our Strength and Fragility


A catastrophic accident leaves one family in ruins and bestows another with precious hope in Heal the Living, a melodrama immeasurably enhanced by the piercing, poetic direction of Katell Quillévéré (Suzanne). On his way home from a dawn surfing trip, carefree teen Simon (Gabin Verdet) is involved in a car crash, leaving him physically intact but brain-dead. This shakes his estranged parents (Emmanuelle Seigner and Kool Shen) to the core. While grappling with this tragedy, they’re forced to decide whether to donate his organs; across Paris, former orchestral violinist Claire (Anne Dorval) confronts her own worsening degenerative heart condition alongside her doting sons (Finnegan Oldfield and Théo Cholbi).

Drenched in a beautifully melancholic score by Alexandre Desplat, the ensuing tale — which also intermittently shifts its gaze to an organ-donor consultant (Tahar Rahim), a lonely nurse (Monia Chokri), and Simon’s girlfriend (Galatéa Bellugi) — is a familiar one about death-begetting-life. Yet Quillévéré’s compassionate handling of her material (adapted from Maylis de Kerangal’s novel with co-writer Gilles Taurand) finds illuminating truths in grace-note details, from Simon gliding down empty nocturnal streets on his bike to a final kind gesture given to the boy during his last moments. At once sorrowful and optimistic, Heal the Living captures the terrifying fragility of life, even as it also recognizes the strength derived from the many connections — organic, emotional, and associative — that bind and define us.

Heal the Living

Directed by Katell Quillévéré

Cohen Media Group

Opens April 14, Quad Cinema