“Hors Normes” (The Specials): The 2021 Toronto Jewish Film Festival

“Hors Normes” leaves you a bit dazed when it begins but let it run and the pieces fit in very nicely. While in many senses it is a sort of tragedy about how the most difficult mentally challenged youth and young adults in France have no place to go for treatment. And treatment in the “accredited institutions” means confinement, isolation and over medication. These poor victims of a medical system that simply can’t offer them any hope, love or encouragement are society’s leftovers.

The film is not asking for your pity but support for “unaccredited institutions” in France offering care for mentally challenged children and young adults. It is also based on real figures that inspired the creation of the film. Inspiration is what they offer what society has rejected. If I tell you the emotional highpoint of the film is a severely autistic child wearing a helmet because he likes to self inflict harm petting a horse you might say you are looking for something more exciting but understand the film and the “patients” and their caregivers it is an exciting moment.

Bruno Haroche (Vincent Cassel) is Jew who wears a yarmulke but never do we see the spiritual side of the man. Bruno has been running an unaccredited facility, The Voice of the Righteous, for mentally challenged youth and young adults in Paris for some 15 years and has a positive can-do attitude. Always trying to find solutions and answers with a huge compassionate heart and against all odds he keeps on facing seemingly insurmountable hurdles. Hospitals throughout Paris know his success in dealing with “special cases” and he has a waiting list of over 50.

Yet the Ministry of Health is on the verge of closing him down as the inspectors are finding many faults in his programme. They conclude their inspection facing a quietly enraged Bruno who throws pictures of some of the residents saying the established medical establishment could never handle them. “You take them.” He then walks out of the office. Does the Ministry of Health close Voice of the Righteous?

His pal Malik (Reda Kateb) also runs a similar institution called “The Hatch”. Malik is a Muslim and as a matter of religion both Jew and Muslim work as a team Get the message of possibilities?

The more films I review, which are mostly foreign and independent, I am getting very adept at judging great acting performances and trash. I mean I reviewed a very professionally written American screenplayed film but it was ruined by actors portraying stoners who gave a laughable performance of smoking cannabis throughout the movie which quickly destroyed its credibility. Really all they had to do was look at Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in “Easy Rider” to play the role. There are no such flubs here as Vincent Cassel is a damn fine and experienced actor that anchors what might be considered an oddball film. This is a highly polished and professional film as most French films are.

Unfortunately this Toronto Jewish Film Festival Film is geoblocked to Ontario but I am sure dear readers you may be able to find it elsewhere.

Although this is a closing film for the Festival you can order it at www.tjff.com and once you order you order it you can view for 48 hours. The Toronto Jewish Film Festival runs from June 3-13.

This French 2019 film is co-directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledana and is 114 minutes in French if you wish or with English subtitles.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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