I turn to my friend to give her a hug; we both need it. Bon Iver is playing and the credits are rolling, but the audience is temporarily paralysed. Such is the power of Rust and Bone, a film that gives the viewer as much of an emotional battering as Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) punches out to his opponents during the fist-clenching underground fighting scenes.

And although bloody violence still has its part to play, Jaques Audiard’s latest film, Rust and Bone, marks a departure from the jingoistic brawls of A Prophet. Enter Stéphanie, beautifully played by Marion Cotillard, whose délicatesse softens any aggressive overtones. Disaster strikes, and Stéphanie clings to Ali for support, who in turn reawakens sensuality in her. Ali’s young son, Sam, (Armand Verdure) also forces Ali to reassess himself, when confronted with the responsibility of family and relationships.

But above all this is a film about survival, and the sheer resilience of human nature in the face of killer whales, frozen lakes, unemployment and disability. Set in a small seaside town on the Côte d’Azur, the sea punctuates the action, and water becomes a character with the ability to heal as well as destroy. Gripping, moving and touchingly funny, Rust and Bone is as passionate as the natural elements which wreak so much havoc on its protagonists, and does not leave the viewer undisturbed either.