A skiing accident lands Toni (Emmanuelle Bercot) and her shredded knee in a rehabilitation center for six weeks, and while there, she reflects on her courtship with and marriage to Georgio (Vincent Cassel). They meet cute in a bar, and then it’s a whirlwind of giddiness. Despite the reservations of some friends, the couple gets pregnant, and then married. But, alas, it is an amour fou, and the director, the singularly named Maiwenn, devotes the film’s two hours to showing us in no uncertain terms how these two people can’t live with each other, can’t live without each other.
No partner is innocent, but the story is told from Toni’s perspective, so Georgio morphs from dream date to monster. Cassel is fantastic in the role, nimbly cycling through what makes Georgio so wonderful and so awful. Early on, Cassel, who has often played villains in assorted thrillers, really turns on the charm: The Georgio whom Toni falls for is flirty and fun; his blue eyes reflect the sparkle of an enraptured lover, not the the ice-cold focus of an assassin. Bercot is great, as well; for all the shouting, some of her best scenes are devastating silences.
But what of Toni? How does this smart, vibrant modern woman get entangled with a dangerous character like Georgio? Ultimately, her battle isn’t to change Georgio, but to understand herself, despite the never-ending complications that marriage, ex-marriage and children continue to present. Nothing in the subject matter is new — so many messy relationships — but the film is enthralling, at times raw, then exhilarating, and even funny.
The framing device of being cooped up in the rehab with nothing but time to reflect was a bit obvious, and the opening scene about how a knee can move only backward was a groaner. But if nothing else, it was worth it to see how other countries manage health care. Nobody here ever busted a knee and spent six weeks at a beach-side rehab.