Director Jacques Audiard called this melotrash, which is just another word for melodrama. An unusual journey shared by two strangers; they started as f#%* buddies and ended up as déclaration d’amour. This film was really about the animal instinct that lives inside us; the minute response that demands us, when in danger, to either take flight or engage a fight. Stépahnie(Marion Cotillard) would not have pick a fight for her life if Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) didn’t answer her call, and without her, he would never put a context for his fightings. It came full circle at the end, and Ali brought it at the eleventh hour! A punch in my face, right there and then, I believe instantly he was in love with Stéphanie, and his son, Sam.
Ali and Sam(Armand Verdure) are on their way to south of France to meet her sister; they come from Belgium. They hitch their way south, dining on garbage left by train passengers, robbing in bright day light so to put foods in his son’s mouth. A father that is nothing but charged with animal instinct of survival. Things become stable when they arrive at Anna’s(Corinne Masiero) house: a roof above their heads and foods to warm their stomachs. He quickly gains employment as a bouncer, and meets Stéphanie after breaking a fight that gives her a bleeding broken nose. He drives her home, where he finds that she is living with her boyfriend. Regardless, he leaves her his number, just in case.
Ali doesn’t take care of his son, and he has sex with women for fun. He also loves to fight. A true brawn and muscle guy who will refuse to engage in any emotionally complex conversations. After an horrific accident at Marineworld, Stephanie, an Orca trainer, is now a double amputee, he calls Ali out of desperation and self-imposed isolation. Here is the interesting part, when Ali drove her home that night after the fight, he was verbally insulting Stéphanie, telling her that her dress made her look like a putain. Yet, she took it in, and took him into the apartment?! Later you will discover that the reason she liked to go to dance club alone is that she liked the act of seduction! In other words, she liked to win as much as Ali wanted to win in those illegal “cock” fights that had earned him extra money. In one phrase, he summarised his life’s M.O. in, “I do what is fun!”. In that instance, when said, Stéphanie’s eyes sparkle in total agreement.
Cotillard is a Method actor, and she needs to stay out of commercial films. Period. She showed us her method acting in every minute of this film, and so did she in La Vie En Rose. In fact, I had no idea that she was playing Edith Piaf until she was at the Oscar’s Red Carpet.
Schoenaerts was also very good in his role, cause I didn’t like him much, other than his good look and muscle body. It means he became Ali during the duration of this film. His temper looked real when he threw Sam mid-air against a couch; Sam ended up hitting a coffee table, and when he pounded at a square of frozen ice on the lake trying to free Sam…
P.S. loosely based on Canadian author, Craig Davidson, collection of short stories Rust and Bone.