In a scene from her upcoming Netflix movie, Bruised, Halle Berry sports braids, boxing gloves and a shiner. The sports drama, about one woman’s quest for redemption, is the Oscar-winner’s directorial debut. “I really didn’t set out to direct it,” Halle confesses. “But nobody really saw the story that I saw in my head.”

Like the mixed martial arts fighter she plays, Halle, 54, has come a long way. “She feels most at peace with who she is as a person and where she is in her life,” says a friend of the divorced actress. “She has two amazing kids, she’s in love and she’s enjoying her work. She’s in the best shape of her life, both emotionally and physically.”

After years of romantic disappointments — and an ex who was physically abusive — Halle has fallen in love with Grammy-winning musician Van Hunt, 50, a divorced father of one son. “He’s an incredible man. I really like the guy a lot,” Halle’s trainer Peter Lee Thomas, who whipped her into spectacular shape for her role in Bruised, exclusively tells Closer. “I am so happy for her. Everyone deserves love, no matter how many tries it takes.”

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This romance with Van is probably the healthiest of the actress’ life, confides the other friend. “Halle finally knows what she doesn’t want. She’s not looking for someone to fix her,” says the pal, who adds that her new romance is based on “honestly, maturity and a little old-fashioned chemistry.”

Halle’s children, daughter Nahla, 12, and son Maceo, 7, also continue to bring her joy. “Being a mom is probably the most important thing in my life,” says the actress, who urges her kids to follow their dreams. “She tells them they can do anything,” says the friend. But it’s not just the children who are reaching for the stars. “Halle feels happy and open to growth and change,” says the pal. “She sees each year that passes as a chance to gain more wisdom.”