Hot-on-the-heels of Thomas Lilti’s Hippocrate, a no-holds-barred look at the life of a junior doctor in a Parisian hospital, comes veteran director Jean Becker’s Bon Rétablissement which delves into the inner workings of a Parisian hospital as seen from the other side of the fence, i.e, the patient. Lilti’s film is proving a hit with audiences in France and Becker himself is no stranger to critical and box-office success. Back in 1983, L’Ete Meurtrier (One Deadly Summer) starring Isabelle Adjani was nominated for the prestigious Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or and Dialogue avec Mon Jardinier (Conversation with my Gardner) with Daniel Auteuil was a big success in 2007. But it’s doubtful Bon Rétablissement will have the same appeal. Despite Gérard Lanvin (Mesrine: Public Enemy # 1) in the lead role as Pierre and Becker-regular Jean-Pierre Darroussin as his brother, the film never rises above the level of a made-for-TV movie with its finger-wagging criticism of today’s youth and a quick-fix approach to solving society’s ills.
Following an accident, Pierre winds up in hospital, bed-bound with his leg in plaster. He is a misanthropic widower in his sixties who wants to be left alone and doesn’t welcome the stream of visitors and medical staff who waltz through his hospital room. As he gradually gets to know some of the more regular visitors and their personal stories he realises he has been too quick to pass judgement and undergoes an emotional renaissance. And the cold, unfeeling, self-centred Pierre learns to become more tolerant and accepting.
There are so many characters passing past Pierre’s bed that Becker hasn’t wasted much time on subtlety or original insight. As each character reveals a flip-side, Pierre reacts with shock and incredulity heightening the impression of a man who has never picked up a newspaper or watched a current affairs programme for at least 10 years. This would work if it added drama or mined a comic vein but sadly it does neither. A contrived and highly predictable ending only adds to the slightly depressing feel of the film. While Hippocrate reveals some home truths about the much-vaunted French health system, Bon Rétablissement, has nothing new to offer about the medical profession or human nature.