Hors normes Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Pros: script with a documentary basis; cast; intense pace; message Cons: the beginning of the film can be off-putting due to its seriousness “Special” / Hors normes

Drama genre
Directed by Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
Starring: Vincent Cassel (Bruno), Reda Kateb (Malik), Hélène Vincent (Hélène), Brian Myalundama (Dylan), Catherine Mouchet (Dr. Roussin), Marco Locatelli (Valentin), etc.
Companies Quad Productions, Ten Films, TF1 Films Production
Year of release 2019 (in Ukraine 2020)
IMDb website

“The Special Ones” is a film by famous French directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. It was they who released the film “1+1” (Intouchables) nine years ago, inspired by real events. It was the story of an unexpected friendship between a wealthy businessman, paralyzed in an accident, and his personal assistant with a criminal record. A witty and at the same time sincere approach to presenting the plot made the tragicomedy famous throughout the world. The film was so well received that a remake was released in the United States a few years later (which, alas, could not replicate the atmosphere of the original).

It is worth saying that to create “The Special Ones,” the directors also chose a real basis, this time abandoning the obvious comedic elements. Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano spent some time observing non-governmental organizations that care for people with autism. The directors made a short documentary about two activists who dedicated themselves to an important cause. The short film was not enough, and the filmmakers turned what they saw into a full-length feature film.


The plot centers on Bruno (Vincent Cassel), the founder of an organization that provides care for children with autism spectrum disorders. He devotes all his time to this, trying to help those who need a special approach. His friend Malik (Reda Kateb) works in a similar organization, recruiting troubled teenagers to work as guardians who help autistic people adapt to their environment. Due to the abundance of worries, every day is quite difficult for Bruno and Malik. However, they do well until they face an unfair obstacle – a ministry audit. An inspection comes to Bruno, which can close his institution, which has no professional workers.


Contrary to expectations, the film does not leave behind a heavy imprint of drama. He simply does not have such a task. Thanks to a delicate script and successful performances by the leading actors, the film gradually introduces Vincent Cassel’s hero, alternately showing those to whom he is attached. His character is very cheerful and at the same time indifferent to his personal life, which, however, does not cause him much bitterness.

The creators do not use techniques that cause laughter, but they clearly enjoy a certain irony – Cassel’s hero is Jewish, and his best friend is Muslim (everything is exactly as it was in the documentary). Both are absorbed in a common cause on which the lives of many people depend, and this completely displaces differences in worldview that could hinder their communication.


Unlike the film “1+1”, the film “Special” is not focused on the friendship of the main characters. It focuses more on people with autism and the situations in which they find themselves. There is not enough screen time to fully explore this topic, so the directors bring two characters with different social adaptations to the center. Cinematographer Antoine Sagnier, working with a hand-held camera, helps them understand the world through their eyes.

The directors are trying in every possible way to move away from unnecessary instructions about patience, simply showing how everyday life goes inside the organization. There are a lot of force majeure situations that happen, so the pace of the film doesn’t slow down. The audience, like the main characters, has no time to step back.


The film “The Special Ones” begins somewhat alarmingly, which can frighten you with its seriousness. In fact, the picture does not manipulate drama, it only immerses you in a certain situation. As the story progresses, it develops a lighter tone, in keeping with the characters of Vincent Cassel and Red Kateb. The actors interact well with their colleagues on the set, including non-professional actors with autism. Thanks to this, there are no artificial moments in the film, although it carries a certain social message.


a social drama from the creators of the comedy “1+1” that should not be ignored.

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