Review

'Diary of a French Doctor' takes pulse of the wrong MD

Benjamin is the new intern at a cramped, busy and crumbling hospital where bureaucratic needs trump proper patient care in the fast-paced but middling French film "Hippocrates: Diary of a French Doctor."

Benjamin (Vincent Lacoste) is eager to do good by the patients and by his doctor dad (Jacques Gamblin), who works at the same hospital. But an unfortunate mistake regarding the overnight care of a drunk, homeless regular exposes Benjamin to the uglier, careerist side of an underfunded, understaffed, profit-seeking health industry.

Director and co-writer Thomas Lilti's mistake, though, is thinking the bland Benjamin's coming of age concerns are worth so much screen time. The sturdier character study in "Hippocrates" is of soulful, beleaguered Algerian-born Abdel (Reda Kateb), a full-fledged doctor whose foreign status relegates him to playing junior intern alongside the much-less-experienced Benjamin.

Abdel's compassionate but controversial handling of a cancer-riven elderly woman provides the meatiest storytelling in this otherwise ho-hum workplace drama. It's no wonder Kateb's effortlessly stirring turn earned him a Cesar Award. Abdel's is a particular kind of immigrant saga — lonely, fighting off mistrust, driven by goodwill but hamstrung by circumstance — that deserves its own movie.

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"Hippocrates: Diary of a French Doctor."

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.

Playing: Nuart, West Los Angeles.

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