Directed by: Lorraine Lévy
Based on the Play by: Jules Romain
Produced by: Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier
Starring: Omar Sy, Alex Lutz, Ana Girardot, Sabine Azéma, Pascal Elbé, Audrey Dana.
An adaptation of the famous French play written by Jules Romain, Knock ou le Triomphe de la médecine (1923), director Lorraine Lévy has brought the story forward in time to the 1950s and has replaced an older white gent with a tall and handsome black, Dr. Knock (Omar Sy).
The play is a French favourite and I can see why: the setting a quaint village with its inhabitants fully formed characters that are both delightful, terrible and most importantly all know each other a little too well.
Dr. Knock, although a stranger, arrives charming and smart and different, sweeping the villiagers off their feet.
But I wasn’t always convinced of Dr. Knock’s good character.
Knock, formally a gambler down-on-his-luck, finds fortune when escaping his debts by applying to be a doctor on board a ship, enthusiastically waving to his debtors as the ship departs.
He has found his calling. After finishing his post, he takes himself to medical school to five years later fill the job of country GP in the beautiful provincial village of St-Maurice.
Conman-turned-GP, Dr. Knock plans on getting rich by making up as many illnesses and treatment plans as he can suggest to his willing patients.
‘Healthy people are merely unaware sick ones,’ he exclaims to much agreement.
He has an uncanny ability to infect the healthy, explaining to a rich widow the cure for insomnia is to imagine a crab or giant spider eating away at her brain, while extending his fingers and dancing them in front of her eyes like spider legs.
His charm and business sense allow him reverence in the village, all the people thinking of him as a saint. Except, ironically, the priest (Alex Lutz).
When meeting beautiful Adèle (Ana Girardot) it is the first time we see Knock lost for words and we begin to see the softer side of the man: she recognises him for who he truly is. Yet the audience is still left to wonder: Is he a charlatan? A doctor? Or both?
The film is sweet and amusing with the slapstick humour of the French, alcoholic post office worker falling head first with his bicycle in the village fountain, included.
In the end, I was won over like the villagers as the film elevated above the usual human condition (and health issues!) into something more: you can’t make happiness happen, it just happens. But you can try.
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