Named for the highway that passes by the industrial port of Toulon, France, <i>National 7</i> is a sometimes tender, sometimes hard look at one of society's great taboos: the sexual desires of the handicapped. Based on a true story and filmed with a digital camera using a mix of actors and invalids in a group home, director Jean-Pierre Sinapi's film succeeds in portraying the inner life of the protagonists with frankness leavened by humor, and with a total absence of political correctness.
The film centers round René, a frustrated 50-year-old confined to a wheelchair by a degenerative muscle disease, and Julie, a newly trained nurse assigned to his case. Time is running out for René: he hasn't made love in years, and his anger and irascibility have reached such a level of violence that neither staff nor fellow patients can deal with him. He asks Julie to find him a prostitute, and after a comical staff meeting in which the "issue" is discussed, she sets out for the highway where such professionals are found in abundance. René becomes a frequent visitor to <i>National 7</i>, and as he undergoes an astonishing personality change-from seething pressure cooker of hostility to house philosopher and insightful confidant-the other characters in the home begin to discover miraculous resolutions for their own personal, religious, and romantic frustrations. René's transformation touches not only Julie but also Rabah, a self-described "handicapped Muslim gay orphan;" Sandrine, the gruff but sentimental nurse; Jacques, the neurotic staff psychiatrist; and Roland, the home's handyman, distinguished only by his utter normality. Jean-Pierre Sinapi's film is stubborn, tender, provocative, slightly obsessed with sex, and proud of it.
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