This is truly a stunning and mesmerizing film that feels at times like a dream mixing with a nightmare; shots fade in and out and slow motion helps add to this feeling but then certain events happen after these pleasant moments that jolt you into the nightmarish section of the dream. A beautiful slowed down part where killer whales are performing at a show is shot like some holiday brochure advertisement and you end up hypnotized, then the blow to the gut happens and you are left speechless. I hadn’t read up on the main summary before watching so was aghast with what happens in the film, (gladly so as it wasn’t spoiled so I felt the impact much more) it’s utterly horrific but handled well with direction and with conviction from Marion Cotillard throughout the ordeal.
The acting displays are powerful and engaging, you feel for both the leads at differing times, though the male character Ali played by Matthias Schoenaerts has a characteristic of bravado and rawness that sometimes makes him unlikeable which he shows well through his swagger and masculinity. The better half, story wise centres on Cotillard’s portrayal of Stephanie, the actress really demonstrates her believability as the character through her nuanced expressions. She brings the best out of Schoenaerts and their scenes together work fantastically. I would have liked more of her backstory and seen more of who she was rather than her story only really being explored now and then through appearing with Ali the majority of the time.
There are a few times where the film seemed to dip in either progression or engagement which made the movie feel longer than perhaps it needed to be but then when you started feeling the length something would happen that would snap you back into the world of the film once more, weirdly one of those times we have Katy Perry to thank for blasting her hit over the rebirth of Stephanie, practising her whale trainer hand signals. It’s a film of emotional ups and downs like some romantic hard-hitting roller coaster, you feel and believe the pain and lost soul nature of the two main characters. They’re made for each other in a sense and through their separate lives they find a link.
It’s a beautiful foreign film with a blue palette cleansing the look of the film, dappling sunbeams on waves and the dance of friendship and love between Ali and Stephanie create a dream painting whose canvas rips apart on more than one occasion letting the audience see how they cope with the nightmares thrown their way. I was transfixed through the majority of this film and the effects of losing something, facing uncomfort in your life or facing the unexpected leaves the audience with a gripping and passionate story acted to perfection by it’s two leads.