Alain van Versch (played by Matthias Schoenaerts) has never really made a success of things in his life. He is on the train from Belgium, heading towards Antibes with his 5 year old son, Sam (by Armand Verdure). They are destitute, hungry and Ali is out of a job. Ali’s sister Anna (by Corinne Masiero) lives in Antibes. She is Ali’s best bet to get Sam some consistent food and shelter, so when he arrives he moves in with her and her husband. Ali tries to get work and with his background as a boxer he gets a job as a nightclub bouncer, where he meets the fascinating and enigmatic Stephanie (by Marion Cotillard). She is a trainer of Orca whales at the local aquarium and they strike up a clumsy friendship. One day, during a marine show Stephanie is involved in an accident and she is horribly wounded. They meet up again and Ali reveals a new, more caring, part of himself to Stephanie – one far more endearing than his previous cool, arms-length treatment of her. Their friendship continues through a range of challenges in Stephanie’s recovery, Ali’s work and Sam’s well-being. The rocky path of friendship, trust and truth is travelled by this threesome – albeit at different speeds, but they arrive at the same terminus eventually.
This unassuming film is direct, with startling scenes that don’t shy away from the truth about injured bodies, human emotions, relationships and violence. By the same token though, its simplicity means the graphic scenes are not over-dramatised but just part of the plainly told story. It’s marvellously honest – like no other movie I have seen, with such blatant images on screen. It’s a triumph for French director, Jacques Audiard. The performances of both Corinne Masiero and Matthias Schoenaerts are excellent – they are both courageous in their portrayals and the result is quite compelling. It’s a very good movie that sneaks up on you, but once it gets hold of you, it’s got you until the end. It has been adapted for screen by Jacques Audiard and Thomas Budegain from a series of stories by Craig Davidson.
Made in 2013. Directed by Jacques Audiard