The Specials Movie Review (In Detail)

Spoilers Alert:

The two “Pretty Best Friends” directors Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache were unable to repeat their incredible success in German. And also her latest film The Specials (de. Alles ausser gewöhnlich) shouldn’t change anything. We reveal why in our review.

Horses are also used to work with patients.

The plot summary

In their work with autistic young people and their carers, the self-sacrificing Bruno (Vincent Cassel) and his colleague Malik (Reda Kateb) perform small miracles every day: With a lot of commitment, sensitivity and humor, they try to form a community out of many different personalities which gives every individual the chance to grow beyond themselves. But this plan is in danger of failing. The problem: The facility for mentally handicapped people run by the two men is not officially licensed. Now the responsible department of the Ministry of Health should take care of the matter. But if the facility were to be closed, that would mean that almost 40 young people and adults with severe autism would be on the streets from one day to the next. Bruno and Malik give everything to fight for their protégés.

The Specials Movie Review

Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s tragicomedy “Pretty Best Friends” was a mega hit not only in their home country of France, but also in Germany. In 2012, the tragicomedy about a paraplegic millionaire and his carer from a poor background attracted over nine million visitors to local cinemas; the last big sleeper hit in recent cinema history. Afterwards, the directing duo remained true to each other not only in their collaboration, but also in the production material. Comedic-tragic studies of life; from “Today I’m Samba” (also starring “Pretty Best Friends” star Omar Sy) to “Life is a celebration” to the US remake of “Pretty Best Friends” with the title “My Best & I” : The script and directing work of the two men is similar, but was never able to match the success of their 2012 surprise hit, although they always advertised that the films were made by the makers of ‘Pretty best friends’” would act. In France, on the other hand, the directors enjoy star status and the films regularly become audience magnets. This is also the case with “The Specials”, which at first glance again has various similarities with the latter works. And perhaps that is exactly the problem, because the material, which is actually extremely serious, is noticeably not in good hands in the hands of Nakache and Toledano. Only with a final, minute-long image montage do the filmmakers catch up with what had apparently been unimportant to them in the previous hours.

Bruno (Vincent Cassel) with one of his protégés.

At first glance, the topic tackled by Toledano and Nakache – both of whom are responsible for directing and writing the screenplay – is hardly suitable for a film that can even remotely be classified as a comedy. Based on true stories, the two tell the story of a non-state (and officially unlicensed) care facility in France, where teenagers and young adults with severe autism receive care that would not be possible for them through state channels. The reason: The more seriously ill a patient becomes, the more difficult it is to find a facility for them, such as a place in a psychiatric hospital. In France, a kind of second system has developed over the years apart from the official health system, which is also kept alive by the fact that certain medical terms in care and nursing are not regulated and, with a certain amount of training, each patient is taken care of and given a place to be cared for can provide. “The Specials” takes place in exactly such a facility; However, the focus is less on the patients than on the carers, who self-sacrificingly look after their charges while at the same time trying to maintain the foster home. The problem: You don’t really find out much about the motivation of the two – and although Maik in particular repeatedly emphasizes that the facility is about to close, neighbors are complaining and the Ministry of Health’s testing center is literally at the door, you never get an answer Sense of how serious the situation really is. Maybe because Bruno, who is constantly glued to his smartphone, simply repeats his succinct mantra of “It’ll work somehow” a few times too often.

In fact, over the course of the film, which is not exactly short at 113 minutes, you get the impression at some point that, as much as the support system presented here is based on luck and improvisation, everything would somehow work out in the end; In the context of the real care circumstances in France, this almost seems like a defiant turning a blind eye to reality. This confidence, which was certainly not unintentional (and somehow honorable) on the part of the creators, has its consequences: As bad and tragic as the fates of the individual patients are, they should not lead you to (self-)surrender – an absolutely solid, but in In this case, the message simply underestimates the severity of the situation. In the thematically similar comedy “The Goldfish ,” which was also released this year, debutant director Alireza Golafshan used a similar cheerful message to use his film to tell a sincere declaration of love for humanity in all its lack of perfection ; and made people with intellectual disabilities the natural focal point. “The Specials” exudes a very similar cheerfulness at times, but this sometimes runs counter to the narrative details of the story. Side notes such as the serious self-harm of some patients or the death wishes of desperate relatives remain just that: side notes. It’s as if Toledano and Nakache didn’t know how to incorporate such harsh themes into a film that is supposed to radiate hope and confidence.

The clinical pictures of the various autism patients can sometimes be so clearly reduced to a specific habit that one can only shake one’s head at so much narrative gross motor skills. For example, when one of the men has to use the emergency brake to stop every train he is traveling on, this has the character of a running gag in the constantly repeated production. However, you hardly learn anything about the person behind the whimsy. The patients in “The Specials” never rise above the status of patients, are never allowed to be human, but remain limited to their function within the film. This is to underline what is certainly a noble intention of the filmmakers – namely to highlight the abuses in this part of the French health system – and to show the clinical picture of autism in all its facets. But only when Toledano and Nakache are really ready in the last quarter of an hour to throw the mantra of “Everything will be fine!” repeated like a prayer wheel overboard and put their finger in the wound that not everything will be okay again if you just If you believe it long enough (or say it often enough), you really buy into the film’s purpose. Previously, “The Specials” follows the previous work of the makers of “Pretty Best Friends” too clumsily, who apparently don’t want to accept that certain stories can be told without humor.

Conclusion: The Specials (Alles ausser gewöhnlich) doesn’t treat its self-imposed theme seriously enough and sometimes uses humor too clumsily to convey an authentic sense of hope. This means that the latest film from the “Pretty Best Friends” makers falls between the chairs of a drama that is too shallow and a comedy that is too unfunny.

The Specials (Alles ausser gewöhnlich) can be seen in selected USA cinemas from December 5th.

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