At last it reaches the cinemas ‘ Especiales ‘ (‘Hors normes’, 2019), the closing film of the last Cannes Festival. Since then, the new work by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache received the audience award at the 67th San Sebastian competition, became a box office success in France and was nominated for eight Cesar Awards (this Friday the controversial gala is celebrated ).
Like ‘ Intocable ‘ (‘Intouchables’, 2011), the phenomenon for which Toledano and Nakache became known, ‘Specials’ relies on two great protagonists to tell a story based on real events where the drama is lowered with a hopeful vision of life and constant doses of humor, making the raw reality of the characters digestible.
Delivered and compelling, Vincent Cassel and Reda Kateb lead the film’s cast as Bruno and Malik, two friends whose lives revolve around sheltering and helping autistic children and teens. They are the managers of two non-profit organizations that deal with extreme cases, young people with problems left to their own devices, with nowhere else to go.
‘Specials’ turns the material of an intense drama into a wonderful “feel good movie”
After learning first-hand about the daily work of these professionals, Toledano and Nakache rely on their observations and authentic stories to draw portraits of their characters and orchestrate a drama that feels true at all times. An inspired casting and a simple staging with realistic and nervous narration, which reflects the mood and a tone reminiscent of the documentary, fit this objective.
The charismatic Bruno and Malik serve as a guide to introduce the public to the settings, conflicts and characters in this story, although the action is divided to present the circumstances of several of those homeless boys and their efforts to learn, improve, overcome their obstacles or at least be able to function with them, and become profitable citizens. In this way we care and suffer more for them.
And while the boys fight their battles, ‘Specials’ shows how this work affects caregivers, with special emphasis on the deterioration of Bruno’s personal life, unable to disconnect and worry about other well-being than that of his proteges. All this provides the human and intimate facet that the film needs to generate empathy and connect with what happens on screen.
To further complicate matters, a government investigation is underway that threatens to close the center led by Bruno, who fights desperate situations with desperate measures such as employing caregivers without official qualifications or neglecting accounting and accumulating debt. This bureaucratic conflict, expressed in a somewhat simplistic way, accentuates the tension in an intense film with a clear message of protest.
The harsh reality of these reception centers is highlighted, but above all, their need because they are the last refuges for many young people. Of course, Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache are not subtle filmmakers; They need to underline and backslide on key themes, always leading the audience and drawing on those conventional joyous scenes with upbeat, motivating music to de-emphasize the story. However, they have been left with a highly prized, endearing and moving film. It is worth it, especially for its two excellent protagonists.