Boys can be creatures of sheer wonder. That’s the takeaway conviction after watching “Des Toutes Nos Forces (released in English as “The Finishers”). By boys, I mean young (or young at heart) men with pure minds and high ideals, willing to push themselves to the utmost limits to reach a goal that has nothing to do with profit, sex or survival. And when they’re in that zone, it seems — thanks to God, fate, destiny or whatever you want to call it — that everything and everyone is on their side.

“The Finishers” is the story of a father and son who compete in an Ironman Triathlon: an almost 4-km swim, 180-km bike ride and 42-km marathon. But the son is in a wheelchair, and his father must pull him along, every grueling step of the way.

The toughest men on the face of the Earth compete in Ironman races, but it takes a different kind of mindset to tow along a physically disabled 17-year-old. At first Paul (Jacques Gamblin) gives a definite “No” when his estranged son Julien (Fabien Heraud) asks him to join in the endeavor. Up to this point, Paul has been an absent father sending money back home while working far away for months at a time, leaving Julien in the capable hands of his wife Claire (Alexandra Lamy). For Paul, it was easy to stay away knowing that Julien was going to a special school and getting maternal love at home.

The Finishers (Great Days! Yume ni Idonda Chichi to Ko)
Director Nils Tavernier
Run Time 86 minutes
Language French (subtitled in Japanese)
Opens now showing

When Paul comes home after being fired from his job, Julien suddenly has a moment of clarity and becomes vocal about participating in the triathlon. When Paul rejects him Julien escapes for the first time in his life; he’s determined to grab a little physical and personal freedom for himself — whatever the cost. Paul begins to realize how much his son has grown while he has stayed in the same place.

“The Finishers” was inspired by a real-life Ironman team in Massachusetts made up of a father and his wheelchair-bound son, and in the film Julien scours the Internet to collect every bit of information about them; if they could do it, so can he, right? This would have been a great opportunity to pull on viewers’ heartstrings, but director Nils Tavernier never dwells on a single scene to open tear ducts. The scene is treated like all the others — with little dialogue and almost no sentiment.

The salient point about “The Finishers” is that for a story with so many emotional pressure points, no one seems interested in pushing the obvious buttons. When Paul decides to take the risk and compete in the race, Tavernier shows his change of heart with a brief, single scene of Paul dismantling the frame of his road bike and refashioning it so that Julien can sit in front.

When they both have an accident during practice and Julien is lying in the hospital, Paul simply asks, “Are you alive?” He is as pure-hearted and young at heart as his son. The pair remain brilliantly untouched by cynicism, hypocrisy and other adult tripe. Without boys like them, the world would be a dark and dreary place.

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