Home is where the heart is but what if the heart has been declared inhabitable? That’s the question that’s at the core of Réparer les vivants, the third feature of Katell Quillévéré, based on a novel by Maylis de Kerangal. Unfortunately the film hasn’t got enough blood flowing through its body to get our hearts beating any faster.
The plot is basically your average Grey’s Anatomy-episode stretched out way beyond the limits of its narrative’s potential. A young boy is brain dead after a car crash but his heart could save the life of someone else. Will his parents agree to a transplantation? Of course they will. What could’ve been a meditation on life, death, loss, mourning and the possibility of a new start, is played out as nothing more than a Wednesday-evening TV-drama, which of course has its own merits but these are not sufficient for the festival-approval it has gotten since its release. If the movie had been American it would have been made with a straight-to-streaming-service future in mind and in this context it would have been easier to give the film its due.
What we are basically talking about here is the question of what constitutes a movie as a work of art instead of a ‘mere’ piece of entertainment and who’s to decide this. A touching story isn’t enough, especially when, like Réparer les vivants, there’s already a book at our disposal. Movies shouldn’t just be retelling stories for an audience that is too lazy to read. And that’s how a quintessentially mediocre movie brought us to the age-old question of what cinema really is.