Miss and the Doctors

There’s something about family doctors that feels comfortingly old-fashioned—the sense of responsibility and respectability, of doing good in a community. The general practitioners in Axelle Ropert’s bittersweet, warmly photographed second feature are even a family business: brothers Boris and Dimitri Pizarnik (Cédric Kahn and Laurent Stocker) see patients together and leave their office to make house calls in the 13th Arrondissement (an area containing Paris’s Chinatown). As the friendly pair treat ailing youngsters, who feel comfortable enough to tease them, Miss and the Doctors bustles along like other French portraits of teachers or social workers, with glimpses of the human comedy.

But when Boris and then, jealously, Dimitri fall hard for Judith (Louise Bourgoin), a pretty, single woman with a diabetic daughter, the contours of a melodrama start to emerge, enhanced by rich reds and a playful score. The two men are lonely and wounded—Dimitri  is a recovering alcoholic and Boris becomes distraught after a regular patient drops them. Enchanting but sometimes aloof, Judith (who works as a bartender) inspires in Boris a love that builds him up, only to lead to angst.

Ropert, a writer and critic who directed The Wolberg Family (09), courts the risk of television cliché in showing orderly lives upended by romance, but she embraces these flawed characters in all their nuance and vulnerability. Miss and the Doctors—the gratingly clumsy English title chosen for Tirez la langue, Mademoiselle (“Stick Out Your Tongue, Miss”)—begins with two people who look like they’re not quite ready for what they’re experiencing. The film’s reward comes from watching them trying, as haphazardly as any of us, to find their footing in life again.

Sales Agent: Pyramide Films