An unlikely connection

2013-10-21 00:00

TWO people, damaged in different ways, forge an unlikely connection in this French-Belgian film.

Matthias Schoenaerts is Ali, who, along with his five-year-old son, suddenly arrives to live with his sister in the south of France. A sometime boxer, he finds work as a nightclub bouncer.

He rescues a drunk woman after a brawl and drives her home, on the way insulting her. He then forces his way into her house, where he decides she may need his help later.

The woman, Stephanie (Oscar winner Marion Cotillard), is a killer whale trainer. If you have never heard of this film, what happens next should come as a surprise.

Suffice to say, Stephanie does get back in touch with Ali, and his brusque presence helps her when she is in desperate need. He helps her face a devastating challenge, but she also helps him by asking it of him.

Slowly, they become more important to each other, until the need is reversed in the final act.

Both leads are impressive in difficult-to-watch scenes (Ali earns a living for a while in illegal backyard bare-knuckle fights) and the casual naturalness of the filming catches the viewer off guard as frustration gives way to a sort of transcendence.

**** Kate Hoole

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