Review: 'Rust and Bone'
BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Friday, January 18, 2013
1/24/13 at 7:04 PM
"Rust and Bone" is one of those wonderfully challenging movies in following the very human emotions of two people in transition, even as they form an odd relationship and endure tragedies.
Ranging from moments of pure elation to deep depression, this French film from Jacques Audiard (whose prison-drama "A Prophet" was one of the best movies of 2009) will work an audience over. This is the creator's attempt to make a human connection with audiences.
This same task faces the film's lead characters: A man must accept responsibility for someone other than himself for the first time in his life, and perhaps discover empathy and love for the first time, and a woman who has known great joy must adjust to having it taken away.
‘RUST AND BONE’
Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts
AMC Southroads 20
R (strong sexual content, brief
graphic nudity, some violence and
(on a scale of zero to four
in French with English subtitles
Two strong-willed performances, requiring both nuanced subtlety as well as internal fireworks and verbal explosions, are musts to pull this off.
Audiard inspires such balance from the gifted Marion Cotillard, the French actress whose embrace by American audiences is well-established, and Matthias Schoenaerts, the physically imposing Belgian actor who in three upcoming English-language pictures will have U.S. women swooning.
Schoenaerts plays Ali, who leaves Belgium for his sister's home in Antibes, a resort town in southeastern France. An aimless brute with a penchant for one-night-stands and apparently skilled only at brawling, Ali is forced into this move after being given custody of a 5-year-old son he didn't know he had. He's broke, and he has nowhere else to go.
A job as a bouncer at a local nightclub brings him into contact with Stephanie (Cotillard), a damsel in distress whom he drives home one night. Rather than a meet-cute, they have something more of a meet-crude.
Ali doesn't see her again until after the trainer of killer whales at an aquatic park has lost both of her legs during one of the adventure shows, stealing away the job she loves and all of the confidence she once enjoyed.
The storyline is a bit choppy at times, as unusual plot points task audiences to stretch their imaginations - on multiple occasions I found myself asking "Why would she do that?" or "How could he be that big of a jerk?" - but there's also something refreshingly honest about the unconventional relationship that develops.
These are two stubborn characters. Ali has obviously never had anyone beyond his sister show him unconditional love, leaving him as a rogue who's happy to fight bloody matches in the street for big money, and then take home a stranger for the night - all the while making a friend of Stephanie.
At first, he can barely even recognize the relationship as a friendship. But his unwillingness to play into Stephanie's paraplegic pity party is what draws her to him, and her initial inability to even consider a permanent relationship is what attracts him to her - as a friend.
Audiard is known for his use of symbolism in his films, and it's extensive here (consider the use of ice in this film, for one). He is also a director with a gift for showing how his characters interact with their environment.
How things feel, sound and look from his camera's eye reveal great beauty in moments like when Ali lifts Stephanie from her wheelchair and carries her into the Mediterranean Sea.
No cloying moment or contrived emotion as he takes her to the water - just an honest gesture that resonates.
The same is true for smaller moments, as when Stephanie celebrates a tiny victory with a wheelchair "dance" to the sounds of "Love Shack," or when she visits her whale partner after a long hiatus and leads it in something of a mimed exercise routine for the creature. Very cool.
The visual effects are beyond accomplished. I can recall being wowed by Gary Sinise's legless character in "Forrest Gump" and the technology involved at that time. Wow, the technology in almost 20 years since has evolved to the point of true movie magic. I checked later; Cotillard still has two legs.
"Rust and Bone" is tough-minded and gentle by turns, as well as being surprisingly innovative.
Original Print Headline: Innovative French film will move audiences
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts and French actress Marion Cotillard turn in two strong-willed performances in "Rust and Bone." Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy
Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a trainer of killer whales, loses both of her legs during one of the adventure shows at an aquatic park in "Rust and Bones." Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy