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22 January 2015 à 04:54

Review of "Hippocrates" by Télérama

Check out the reviews by our partner Télérama Magazine of each of the feature films in competition at MyFrenchFilmFestival.


Today's review:

A drama directed by Thomas Lilti in 2014
Starring Vincent Lacoste, Jacques Gamblin, Reda Kateb... 
Release date: September 3, 2014

Rating: 4/5


Benjamin begins his internship at the hospital ward where his father, Professor Barois, works. He is keen to learn the ropes and determined to make it on his own. The other intern at the hospital, Abdel, an older and more experienced Algerian physician, is clearly more competent and compassionate in his approach to his work. One night when Benjamin is on duty, he is called on to the bedside of Lemoine, an alcoholic who complains of severe pain. But the equipment he needs is out of order and Benjamin decides to simply administer a pain medication. The next day, Lemoine is dead. His superiors cover up his negligence, but Abdel is not convinced, and Lemoine's widow wants answers. Benjamin fears for his future...


The popular success of the TV series House and Grey's Anatomy have proved that although the French are terrified of hospitals, they are crazy about American medical programs. Offering a charming counterpoint with a strong French flavor to these dramatic, glamorous shows that are far removed from everyday realities, Hippocrates is framed as a rite of passage set against a social backdrop. Its director Thomas Lilti, who is—unusually in the film world, and perhaps the only example—also a doctor, has drawn on his own experiences as a medical student for his second feature film.

A physician's son who received top marks in his internship exam decides to accept his first job as a junior doctor in the Parisian hospital ward run by his father, a highly-respected physician. Benjamin has a high opinion of himself and is not lacking in ambition. But this social climber, confident in his white coat, is soon disillusioned by his vocation when he discovers the grueling conditions of the French hospital system in the 2010s on the brink of financial ruin. As Abdel (Reda Kateb, as always, spot on), his co-intern and mentor, explains, "Being a doctor is not a profession, it's a curse."

The film portrays the hospital scene as a micro-society of castes in which increasing numbers of foreign physicians are exploited by their French colleagues, the nursing staff spend more time on paperwork than on caring for their patients, and the lack of beds forces the hospital's senior physician (played brilliantly by Marianne Denicourt) to make unmerciful decisions.

With the exception of the somewhat excessively emotional scene of a general assembly in the last moments of the film, the documentary-style precision that underlies the subject never takes over from the fictional dimension. Benjamin's journey to become a doctor requires him to accept his responsibility in the death of two patients. The first was not his fault—it was due to a broken down machine—while the second was planned in order to bring relief to an elderly lady who was fed up with her pain, which offers a touching and fitting evocation of the difficulties in applying the French "Leonetti Act" relating to the rights of patients to control their end-of-life care.

Benjamin's road to adulthood reflects that of the actor Vincent Lacoste, who for this film has taken on his first role that is not 100% comedy. In certain moments, this actor who won acclaim in The French Kissers by Riad Sattouf, shows us glimpses of the rather awkward, goofy mannerisms of the teenager he played in the film, as well as the wise guy ladies' man he played in The Skylab by Julie Delpy. But the challenges his character faces in this film allow him to express a broad palette of emotions that he has not previously had the chance to explore. Lacoste excels in his interpretation of the small acts of cowardice and moments of existential doubt of an ambiguous hero, who is not always likeable, but somehow remains endearing to the end.

Review by Samuel Douhaire for Télérama Magazine.

© Télérama

Author : Aurélie Padovan

Latest update : 26 January 2015 à 04:54 CET

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MyFrenchFilmFestival - 2015

Type : UniFrance festival

Theme : French films