First Hit: Superior acting in a dark, moody and excellent film.
This film is rarely a “feel good film” but the superior acting by Marion Cotillard (as Stephanie) and Matthias Schoenaerts (as Alain van Versch) make this a very strong film.
Alain and his son Sam (played by Armand Verdure) are homeless and trying to get to his Alain’s sisters house. His sister Anna (played by Corinne Masiero) and her husband Richard (Jean-Michael Correia) welcome him and his son although there isn’t any love lost between them.
It is clear at the beginning that Alain is self-centered, arrogant, and selfish but he does love his son. He doesn’t think through his actions and generally does what he wants when he wants to. As a security guard, he meets Stephanie after she’s been hit while drunk at a dance club. He takes her home meets her lover but leaves his number anyway.
Stephanie is an Orca trainer at a water show. She loves what she does, but it is clear her shadow self is part of her life. A mishap with the Orcas and she loses her legs. Depressed and suicidal she reaches out to Alain. His selfish but caring manner has her come out of her shell.
There begins the story of their redemption for their actions and a willingness to grow into acceptance of who they are and what they want.
Cotillard is sublime in this role. The variety of emotions, feelings, and actions are done so well that this role is Oscar worthy. Versch is very good as a kind and selfish brute. Masiero was strong as the sister who finds ways to make her life work. Correia was great to seen again and, as always, wonderful as the sister’s husband who tries to make peace between the occasional warring siblings. Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain wrote a very strong script. Audiard directed this film with strength and elegance.
Overall: A very wonderful film which deserves any Oscar recognition it gets – probably more.