Tag Archives: romance

VIFF 2014 Review: Love At First Fight (Les Combattants)

Les Combattants is an unlikely romance between a girl with a tough attitude and a boy who's more sensitive.

Les Combattants is an unlikely French romance between a girl with a tough attitude and a boy who’s more sensitive.

It was all a result of timing and availability for when I was able to see Love At First Fight or Les Combattants (working title in the US is Fighters). Even though it’s nothing too special, I’m glad I saw it.

Arnaud is a young Frenchman who works for his family’s contractor job in a French coastal city. That all changes when he does work in a family’s yard. He meets Madeleine, a young woman who’s beautiful but has a tough-as-nails personality. It’s tough because she has ambitions of being in the French army. Arnaud on the other hand is more sensitive. Sensitive enough to care for a stray ferret found in the yard.

The first meeting doesn’t go so well. They have as squabble and he bites her! The second time he thinks she’s crazy because she swims with a backpack full of ceramic shingles. Nevertheless he’s still drawn to her despite her negative attitude towards him. He even has army ambitions of his own. However it interferes with the family business while they still have a lot of jobs to do.

The two eventually do things together. However she still maintains a tough hard-as-nails attitude towards everything from a harmless ferret to even nightclubbing. He himself joins the army. The two help each other out and challenge each other along the way. Then an incident happens that causes Madeleine to run away. Arnaud soon finds her. However it’s once they’re out of the training area that they start to reveal their true feelings to each other. Finally Madeleine’s love for him comes out. However all fun ends when Madeleine suffers from food poisoning and Arnaud tries to take her to aid while the town they’re in is engulfed with smoke from a forest fire. The film ends predictably but not as fluffy as your typical Hollywood romance.

This film is an example of how France is making movies of their own. Sure the French are famous for making films. This would qualify more as a movie. Nevertheless there are some film qualities. One is the lack of a score in the background. Yes, there is background music at times but the film is mostly scoreless to get the environment of the story. Even though it’s not as artsy as your typical French film, there are some elements such as when Madeline hits Arnaud during a paintball exercise. Some could say it could resemble cupid shooting an arrow through his heart. Even the place of gender roles as the girl is the hard-ass one compared to the boy can be a French element in film.

As a movie, it’s good. However it’s not all that  attention grabbing. It does have a story that can keep one interested once they watch more of the movie but only in that case. One thing I will say is that it does come across way more sensible than most teen romances, especially those from 20 years ago.

The film is devoid of big-name actors, even from France. Nevertheless they did impress. The young actors did well too. Adele Haenel was best as Madeleine. Madeleine could have come across as this stockish hard-ass army girl but her character had dimension to it. She was able to make the transition into the more sensitive feelings of her character very smoothly. Kevin Azais was also good in his role even though he wasn’t given too much of a role to work with. This is the first feature length film by director Thomas Cailley. This film for which he also co-wrote the script with Claude Le Pape is a good story and a good first effort and should lead to more promising work in the future. I can easily see the story itself being made into an American version.

Love At First Fight or Les Combattants is a good young adult romance even if it lacks what would normally bring young adults to the screen. Still it will keep your intrigue.

VIFF 2012 Review: Rust And Bone (De Rouille et D’os)

Rust And Bone is a French film that’s not your typical artsy type of movie you’d associate with the term ‘French film’. Instead it’s an offbeat romance between two unlikely people. It has to be the year’s most unlikely romance story.

Ali is a Belgian man who’s had it rough. A young father of a five year-old boy names Sam, he’s dirt poor and often looks for food or steals it. He dreams of being a mixed martial arts fighter but has to earn a living as a security guard or bouncer and make whatever extra money he can from outdoor fringe fighting. He travels with Sam to Antibes, France living with his sister in hopes of a better life.

Stephanie is a killer whale trainer at the French resort town. She appears to have things better for her as her job is more stable and pays well but something is missing in her life. The fact that she goes to night clubs scantily dressed shows she’s missing something.

Ali and Stephanie first meet by accident. A brawl starts at the night club Ali is a bouncer at and Stephanie is hurt with a bloody nose. Ali offers to take her home and look after her for a short while. They trade phone numbers but they soon return to their regular lives. The next day Stephanie returns to her job at the oceanarium. The show seems business as usual until one of the orcas flies in and smashes the wooden office leaving Stephanie injured and bleeding. The wounds were so bad, both her legs were amputated.

Ali had all but ignored Stephanie until he received a call from her. They spend time together including times when he takes her swimming at the beach. During the time, she learns to get her self-confidence back. She’s able to swim, to stand and walk with prosthetics and even return to her job at the oceanarium.

Even though Ali helped her through it all, he is the one struggling. He has problems financially and still does his fighting outside. He has difficulties juggling his security work with his fighting. Sometimes he spends less time around Sam than he should. He constantly spends time with Stephanie and even has sex with her but still engages with women frequently even in front of Stephanie.

There would eventually have to be some message to send him to turn his life around but nothing does. Stephanie is tired of spending all this time with Ali despite his unwillingness to have a relationship. During his work as a security guard, he discovers people stealing from the store his sister works at. One of them is his sister and she gets fired. The sister throws him out of the house and it’s just up for him and Sam all alone. Things don’t change for him until a near-tragedy happens. It leads to changes for both but an ending that ended rather flat.

It’s hard to pinpoint what the actual theme of the movie is. If I could determine a theme, it would be about love turning your life around. I think the most unique thing about this film is that it makes a very good effort in creating a romance in the most unlikely of circumstances. A romance between a woman who just lost her legs and a man who is pursuing bloodsports doesn’t come across as your typical romance fair but the film was successful in achieving it. Part of it had to do with the screenplay co-written by director Jacques Audiard with Thomas Bidegain and in directing. It was most well-written to present a very real situation and real sets of events. Also part of the success of it was the acting from Marion Cotillard. She has one of her best acting performances in years. Her ability to act out the part very well and give depth to her character also adds to the film. Matthias Schoenarts didn’t give as stellar a performance as Ali but he did a good job for himself. Also a standout effort is the score from Alexandre Desplat. He keeps on churning out scores that fit movies well and he does it here again. Another standout effort of the film is the use of Katy Parry’s song Firework. The song is first used as part of the orca show but later becomes Stephanie’s personal anthem of self-recovery. Stephanie’s a firework.

Rust And Bone has already received good acclaim at film festivals. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film festival. It also won the Golden Swan for Best Film at the Cabourg Romantic Film Festival. It has made the circuit for many Canadian film festivals including Toronto. It’s expected to be released in North American theatres on Novermber 23rd in limited release.

Rust And Bone is not your typical romantic movie but it’s a very deep story about people with deep emotions that were meant to be together. Despite its imperfections and lack of spectacle, it’s still worth seeing. You’d be surprised how good it is.

From Summer Movie Sizzle To September Slump

We’ve already seen the latest summer movie season come and go. The excitement, the hits, the blockbusters, the special effects, the stars, the flops, the sleeper surprises. It all shaped the summer movie season of 2011, which I will elaborate on in a future article. The Labor Day always opens the movie month of September up on a bright note.

What happens in the next three or four weeks should be known as the September Slump. Now that all the big movies had the summer to reap in the money, it’s now quieter fare during September. That usually makes for a low box office month. In fact September has the lowest box office gross of any month of the year. For the record, the highest grossing September was back in 2007 with $554.7 million. Also for the record, the highest opening weekend for a September release is Sweet Home Alabama way back in 2002 with $35.6 million. Pretty paltry compared to other months, eh?

So you think that the month of September should have some drab fare, right? Wrong. There are lots of reasons to go see a movie in September even though you’re no longer on vacation and back at work or back to school. Look what the month has:


Contagion: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law. Medical drama about trying to stop an airborne virus from spreading into an epidemic.

Warrior: Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton. Could this be the first hit movie about Mixed Martial Arts?

Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star: Nick Swardson, Don Johnson, Christina Ricci. An over-the-top comedy with an over-the-top scenario.

The Black Power Mixtape 1968-1975 Excellent for those who are into documentaries.

Main Street (limited): Colin Firth, Ellen Burstyn, Patricia Clarkson. Colin Firth plays an American! A Southern one!

September 16:

Drive: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston. A Hollywood stuntman who moonlights with the underworld is on the run.

I Don’t Know How She Does It: Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Kelsey Grammer. A businesswoman who can juggle her career, family and marriage until she meets her business associate.

Straw Dogs: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth. When an L.A. Screenwriter relocates to his wife’s Southern hometown, it leads to some Southern discomfort.

Restless (limited): Mia Wasikowska stars in a dark ropmantic drama directed by Gus Van Sant.

September 23:

Moneyball: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill. Can a computer design a winning baseball team on a budget? You be the judge.

Abduction: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina. Can Taylor Lautner be bankable with something other than Jacob? And with his shirt still on? Stay tuned.

Machine Gun Preacher: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon. A true story of a reformed bad boy becoming a crusader for Sudanese children.

Killer Elite: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert de Niro. A kidnapping drama that will capture the action movie crowd.

Puncture (limited): A legal drama starring Chris Evans.

Dolphin Tale: A family movie starring Morgan Freeman.

You may have noticed I left out September 30, right? And for good reason. That weekend has more days in October than September. So there you go. Some good movie choices for the month of September. Even movies already out like The Help and The Debt make for good choices about this time. I’m sure even in your hectic schedule or workload, overtime, or homework or family business, you can find time for a movie.


Box Office Mojo