The Country Doctor is a film with powerful themes, but one that never quite gets deep enough to warrant a moving response from its audience.
Jean-Pierre (François Cluzet) is a workaholic small-town doctor whose life is turned upside down after being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. He’s then forced to supervise his potential replacement Nathalie (Marianne Denicourt), all while trying to come to terms with his prognosis, and keep a brave face for the townspeople he’s gotten to know so well.
Jean-Pierre has dedicated his life to helping others, but struggles to help himself after learning of his illness. This is covered well in the film as we see the doctor try to soldier-on in the face of adversity, while reluctantly training, and having to accept the fact that a new doctor will be replacing him, and his style of doctoring very soon. This reluctancy and somewhat of a denial is essentially what keeps Jean-Pierre going through this tough time and we feel for him as he goes through it, however the film is missing that extra bit of character development to really have us sympathise with him. Rather, we’re dropped right into the middle of his world as the film kicks off with him getting his diagnosis. This is fine, but for someone that just got news of an illness with potentially dire consequences, Jean-Pierre may have remained a bit too stoic throughout the film. That may have also been the point though, making for an interesting point of discussion on how one would handle such news themselves.
François Cluzet is outstanding in the lead role; his experience as an actor seeping through seamlessly. Marianne Denicourt is also great as the town’s new resident doctor Nathalie, whose way of doing business is different from Jean-Pierre’s, much to his dismay, but to the delight of the townspeople. Denicourt handles the character’s challenges of having to cope with a grumpy mentor, as well as steal the hearts of the townsfolk excellently, and we’re often left rooting for her to do well (and she’s not even the one that’s sick).
Director Thomas Lilti has crafted an especially graceful film with The Country Doctor. While we may not get too emotionally attached to the characters, it’s fair to say that the film hits the mark in offering a rather optimistic experience overall, and that’s never a bad thing.
Filmmaker Thomas Lilti is also a doctor and began to do short movies at the same time he studied medicine.