The Country Doctor Film Review


Thomas Lilti’s new film, The Country Doctor, serves as an excellent reminder that there isn’t always a need for a Blockbuster budget to create a meaningful and engaging story. Sometimes, all you need are well-thought-out characters and a beautiful location.

Jean-Pierre Werner (François Cluzet) is the only doctor in a tiny, regional French village. His patients are more than just that – they are dear friends, all of whom he has known and treated for years. In his view, he’s the only one equipped to do so, but when Jean-Pierre discovers he is suffering a serious illness, he is forced to welcome his own replacement.

The film is very much like the French countryside in which it is set: quiet, sparse and slow-paced.

To be clear, that is not to say that it is boring. On the contrary, it is within The Country Doctor’s most small and silent moments that the film shines. The long shots of Werner’s perpetual sunset-travels from house to house showcase some of France’s most breathtaking scenic areas. Lilti’s style, too, is extremely personal. He often frames his characters very closely together, and in small or crowded spaces, creating a sense of intimacy and familiarity throughout the film – in such scenes, the silence often speaks volumes.

lead character talking to paitents
Image from www.nziff.co.nz

The acting in this film is one of its great strengths. Cluzet plays the stubborn, somewhat-impersonal Werner with great control, fluctuating between the doctor’s occasional sly and cheeky humour and moments of great emotional intensity. Much of the film’s charm and warmth, however, comes from the delightful Doctor Nathalie Delizia (Marianne Denicourt). Denicourt’s on-screen presence is quite captivating, playing the nurse-turned-mature-aged-doctor with the perfect combination of fun and strength that beautifully supplements Cluzet’s more reserved style.

However, the film is certainly not a star-centric one, spending an almost equal amount of time exploring the lives of the individual citizens that make up the small, French town as it does on its two leads. Lilti’s seeming fascination with creating a sense of familiarity is clearly evident when, by the films end, we have met almost every one of them. We see their families, their illnesses and their fears as Jean-Pierre does – right up close – and in turn become almost like a citizen ourselves.

Ultimately, the film exemplifies the beauty of a simple, well-constructed story. Heartwarming, moving and often times delightfully funny, The Country Doctor reminds us of what is possible when we let people in.

In cinemas 6 April 2017.