Irène Frachon, a doctor who lives in the Breton town of Brest, dares to stand up to the French health and pharmaceutical industry, helping to uncover the media scandal surrounding the ...
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Irène Frachon, a doctor who lives in the Breton town of Brest, dares to stand up to the French health and pharmaceutical industry, helping to uncover the media scandal surrounding the commercialization of a controversial medicine whose side effects have caused the death of hundreds of people. Written by
It is tempting to compare 'La fille de Brest' with 'Erin Brockovich'. Both are about female whistle-blowers, fighting the establishment with all they have. Both are based on actual events. Both are outsiders, initially not taken seriously by their opponents. Both have a star actress in the title role.
But there is an important difference. In 'Erin Brockovich', the title character is much more one-dimensional than in 'La fille de Brest'. Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen plays small-town pulmonologist Irène Frachon as an intelligent and passionate woman, who has qualities as well as weaknesses. Her performance really carries the movie.
Doctor Frachon accidentally discovers that some patients suffering from a cardiac disorder also take the drug Mediator against obesity. She suspects that the disorder is a fatal side-effect of Mediator, and embarks on a crusade to prove her point. That's easier said than done, because even with the help of a professor she has a hard time writing a scientifically solid paper. In the sample of patients treated in her hospital, in the small seaside town of Brest, she finds a remarkable correlation between Mediator use and the cardiac disorder. But the drug company and the authorities think the sample is too small to be scientifically acceptable.
The film has not chosen the easy way: the story doesn't simplify things too much. In fact, the start of the movie is not the best part because the viewer feels bombarded by technical information. Later on, the story moves forward more smoothly when Frachon and her team hire a lawyer to represent the patients, find an editor to publish a book about the affair and approach a journalist to write a scoop about it. Also, the involvement of an insider from the health insurance agency gives the story a nice extra dimension.
The film clearly attacks the heavy involvement of the medical industry in the supervision process. According to the end credits, things have changed in France after the Mediator scandal. It would have been a happy end, if several of doctor Frachon's patients wouldn't have lost their lives because of Mediator. Her reading their names aloud during a live television interview, is one of the finest moments in the film. The message is clear: it's all about them, not about reputations, profit or statistics.
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