Thomas Lilti’s Irreplaceable sees him turn the spotlight on a pair of doctors once again, following his critically successful sophomore feature Hippocrate. Lilti’s focus is hardly surprising considering he started his career working as a medical professional before becoming a filmmaker. Irreplaceable revolves around middle-aged country doctor Jean-Pierre Werner (François Cluzet) and his trying relationship with inexperienced new work colleague Nathalie Delezia (Marianne Denicourt). Despite a somewhat pedestrian narrative, Irreplaceable gets by on the strength of its fantastic lead performances.

The film begins on a sombre note, Jean-Pierre is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. After working devoutly as his rural community’s GP for years, Jean-Pierre has established a firm routine and become attached to his many regular patients. So, when newly-trained city doctor Nathalie arrives to help ease Jean-Pierre’s workload, conflicts inevitably ensue as the two share contrasting viewpoints on life and how best to treat several of their patients.

IrreplaceableUnfortunately, the differences in opinion between the two stem from disappointingly clichéd sources. Jean-Pierre’s wealth of experience and rural viewpoint clashes with Nathalie’s highly-qualified but inexperienced big-city outlook. Although these two sets of characteristics are dully familiar, some engaging scenarios still arise from them thanks to the authenticity of the script and the sincerity of the performances. One such situation involves a slowly-deteriorating 92-year-old man who Jean-Pierre passionately believes has the right to stay in the comfort of his own home whereas Nathalie thinks he should be treated in hospital. Importantly, the film champions an empathetic, personal attitude towards medical care and this quandary provokes some of the most emotionally-charged, engaging scenes in an otherwise uneventful narrative.

Cluzet puts in a beautifully honest turn as Jean-Pierre, nailing the characters’ unsentimental yet genuinely caring approach to his work. Denicourt gives an equally thoughtful, moving performance as Nathalie and pulls off many of the film’s gently humorous moments too. The result of their labours is a vivid, lived-in depiction of rural medical care and its complications in rural France today.

Concluding in a typically warm-hearted manner, Irreplaceable is an unashamedly low-key, old-fashioned affair which leans heavily on the undeniable talents of its central duo. More originality and dramatically engaging incidents wouldn’t have gone amiss, but altogether it’s a well-intentioned, affectionate little film.