The Country Doctor Adam-Fresco'S REVIEW

French doctor-turned-director Thomas Lilti co-scripts and directs The Country Doctor, a tale also known as Irreplaceable. Apt, as titular medic Jeanne-Pierre (played by François Cluzet) can’t get to grips with the thought of being replaced. Facing illness, he’s forced to take on Nathalie (Marianne Denicourt), an inexperienced apprentice. Both are middle-aged, but Nathalie is fresh out of medical school; a late start that riles Jeanne-Pierre, who treats his would-be replacement with world-weary disdain.

The acting is subtle and understated, in a film steeped in the show-don’t-tell methodology of the best visual storytelling. Characters are roundly drawn, and the conflicts on which the drama rests are always relatable, often amusing and sometimes tragic. Jeanne-Pierre has been told he must cut back on his work in his rural, community practice, if he is to survive his illness, yet it is into his work he plunges to avoid confronting his mortality.

It’s a slow, thoughtful study in humanity, and the banality of the extraordinary in the everyday, let down by a third act that feels contrived. It’s as if the filmmakers avoided movie clichés and pitfalls, only to feel the need to deliver an ending neatly wrapped in a neat dramatic bow. Tidy resolution aside, this is a gentle, restrained film, featuring a superb score, directed and acted with assured passion, and shot with an eye for the French landscape and the subtle, tell-tell signs of real faces hiding real emotions.