Director: Jacques Audiard
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure, Celine Sallette
Written by: Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain and (story) Craig Davidson
Running Time: 120 mins
Release date: 2nd November 2012
There are a lot of people who fear International cinema. Their greatest fear is having to read subtitles. Maybe the fears should be push to one side for this beautifully realistic love story and so you can see how to make a romance without once making it lovely and flowery and perfect as you would see in most Hollywood made films.
Alain is a man left in charge with his son and coming to stay in France with his sister. Alain struggles to look after himself, let alone an 8-year-old. He finds a job as a security guard and bouncer of a nightclub, where he meets Stephanie, who trains Killer Whales. Tragedy strikes for Stephanie when she loses her legs in a freak accident. Alain, who is finding he can get extra cash fighting in illegal street fights, slowly becomes Stephanie’s friend even though she wants far more.
This is both powerful and beautiful stuff. We don’t get any soft edges here. Not from the characters, not from the storyline. What we do get is a very satisfactory and real love story about real people. Director Jacques Audiard, who gave us the brilliant prison drama, A Prophet, approaches the film with the same visual flair and lack of sympathy that you would usually expect to see in such a film. These are flawed people, especially Alain, a man who is desperate to do the right thing and yet keeps failing. This is none more so shown when Alain pushes his son away and he hits his head. You really should think of him as a vile creature but yet Alain is flawed and is a mess that you can side with him at the same time.
Alain’s problems are played out quite brilliantly by Matthias Schoenaerts. His is a quietly underplayed performance of a man wanting to do right. He is a brute, he is tougher than he would like to be and yet you really do get on his side throughout. His relationship with Stephanie might seem strange and yet you can believe that he would want to protect this very vulnerable woman.
Oscar winner Marion Cotillard once again delivers a pitch perfect performance as the tragic Stephanie, a woman who has spent her life working with beautiful creatures and yet these same creatures have destroyed hers. She is such a great actress that she pulls out all the stops to make you love Stephanie and her blight. It is a remarkable performance and one that should be in line for a few awards.
Audiard’s visual eye is shown several times, particularly the tear inducing moment when Stephanie returns to the Sea World and comes face-to-face with the Whale that left her legless. It is a stunning moment that will stay with you long after the film is over.
The whole film is a cracker. Not your usual romance but one that feels real, human and unforced. It walked away with the Best Picture at this year’s London film Festival and you can see why. This is a superb piece of work and really places Audiard up there with the best directors around.