How often have you remarked, possibly out loud to strangers you passed in the street, “I wish someone would make a movie about the sexual desires of handicapped people”? If you’re like me, you remark this at least twice a day. Leave it to the Sundance Film Festival to showcase a film that fills this void.
“National 7” is a very, very French movie by director Jean-Pierre Sinapi. Based on a true story, it’s about a home for handicapped people in which one very disagreeable, vulgar, wheelchair-bound man named RenÃ© (Olivier Gourmet) who insists the cause of his woes is that he hasn’t had sex in who knows how long. He passes the time watching dirty movies and looking at the dirty pictures he has pasted on his wall, but what he really wants is a roll in the hay.
A kindly nurse named Julie (Nadia Kaci) takes pity on RenÃ© and agrees with him that only a prostitute would be willing to take on the task of having sex with a man who is paralyzed. She convinces the hospital directors that this is a medical need; however, convincing a doctor to approve it is another thing.
Without authorization, they go out to National 7, a freeway known for being where prostitutes live in their mobile homes. They find one named Florele (Nadine Marcovici), your standard “hooker with a heart of gold.”
Sure enough, sex does the trick for RenÃ©, and he’s soon tolerable again. Meanwhile, there’s a subplot involving a gay, handicapped, Muslim orphan named Rabah (Said Taghmaoui), who wants to convert to Catholicism but is in need of a godfather and godmother. This story is whimsical and adds a little flavor to the theme of “what do handicapped people want?”; it also takes the focus off sex for a few minutes.
The film uses natural sound and lighting, as well as hand-held cameras, to achieve a measure of realism. RenÃ© is a sympathetic character who is often funny as well as pitiable. (His best line is at a party, when an annoying clown is bugging him: “Go yell in someone else’s ear. You’re not funny.”) Julie is a trouper, and while it’s not her story, it would be nice to have seen more about her than her silly love-life problems. (She has a cat, and the guy she likes is allergic to cats.)
For a film whose subject matter is one we didn’t think we wanted to see a movie about, “National 7” turns out pretty well.
B- (; )