Panorama | Spotlight on France
Vincent Cassel and Reda Kateb star in Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s (The Intouchables) forceful humanist drama. Based on the true story of Stéphane Benhamou, a Parisian who cares for those teens and young adults whose severe autism puts them outside the purview of the French state, the film immerses us in the day-to-day lives of the caregivers and their charges, and conveys the constant struggles faced by both groups. As Bruno (the Benhamou character), Cassel is a fireball of determination, constantly battling for the funding he needs; Kateb plays his partner Malik (based on real-life character Daoud Tatou), who runs a centre that trains poor kids from the banlieues to become carers.
Toledano and Nakache have a very personal connection to their material here: both have been longtime friends of Benhamou’s and have been trying to draw attention to his vital efforts (it is working - Gaumont, the film’s producer, will donate 5% of the film’s profits to Benhamou and Tatou’s organizations). With heartfelt conviction and a charged sense of immediacy, the directing duo conveys the heroic efforts of a few good people determined to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.
"Powerful and accomplished… The Specials is a rare film that comes both from the heart and reality: it’s a potent mix, which allows access to a hidden subject yet welcomes the audience in with grace and humour." - Fionnuala Halligan, Screen