I wasn’t sure what to expect of this film, having only read the barest of blurbs before I saw it as a part of the Calgary International Film Festival. It caught my notice because it was French language, and it stars Marion Cotillard, who has become one of my favourite French actresses in the last few years. (See in her ‘La Môme’ as Piaf, and in ‘Public Enemies’ as Billie Frechette, among other films, if you are not yet acquainted with Ms. Cotillard.)
This film did not disappoint. Well, maybe a tad. Everything was great except for the character of Ali. Now, I’m going to get into spoilery detail, so click below to continue at your own risk. Aside from my criticism of Ali’s character, I highly recommend going to see this film. It is fantastic. (Check out the trailer on Youtube.)
The basic premise is that Ali (Alain) moves with his son to the south, and meets Stephanie, a killer whale trainer who has suffered a tragic accident and lost her lower legs. Stephanie’s journey and the progression of her journey is incredibly compelling, and Marion Cotillard plays it subtly; her emotions are portrayed in her body movement and in her face. It’s hard to explain, but she is so fully Stephanie, and I was completely entranced. But Ali… I just don’t know….
My problem with Ali was that he is so incredibly selfish and that there is really very little progression and growth to his character until the end. He takes his son from Belgium to the south, and essentially leaves the boy with his sister. He spends more time fighting, shagging women, and working nights than he does with his son. He forgets to pick him up from school, and cannot even really be bothered to pay attention to him.
He does only very rarely think of others, and though he is kind to Stephanie (Cotillard), he shows little kindness or sensitivity towards others, such as his son and his sister. Even with Stephanie, he is thoughtless (such as when he left her at the club and went home with another woman), and it took her own courage to tell him what the score was for him to start to realize how poorly he’d treated her. It takes his son nearly dying for Ali to wake up, and while I can understand that such an event would be the one to do it, it just seemed a bit contrived.
But still, overall it was a good film, and perhaps upon a second viewing I might be just a bit more generous with Ali as a character.