Alain, a former fighter, leaves Belgium with his son to move in with his sister in Antibes, France. Upon his arrival, he is able to secure a job as a bouncer at a local club, where he meets Stephanie. While their first interaction is not on the best of conditions, a connection is made that is more important to both of them they could initially realize. While at her job as a trainer of killer whales, an accident happens during a show and she plunges into the tank when the supports collapse, leaving her a double amputee. Struggling with her new condition, she calls Alain to come see her. Convincing her to get out of her apartment, he helps her take a break from her depressive state and get back into the water for the first time since she lost her legs. As much as she needs him to help her out of her funk, he neglects to realize how much he needs her to find himself.
Starring: Marion Cotillard (Stephanie), Matthias Schoenaerts (Alain van Versch), Armand Verdure (Sam), Celine Sallette (Louise), Corinne Masiero (Anna), Bouli Lanners (Martial), Jean-Michel Correia (Richard), Mourad Frarema (Foued), Yannick Choirat (Simon)
With an incredibly gripping performance, Marion Cotillard portrays all of the sadness and struggle with an intense life change. She exhibits a wide array of emotions, from anger and frustration to depression to glimmers of happiness. Matching her performance is a very talented actor in Matthias Schoenaerts. Stubborn and short-sighted, his portrayal of a man who both tries to be good while oblivious to the results of his blindness to others. Armand Verdure provides a sense of connectedness to help keep Schoenaerts’s character grounded.
Jacques Audiard’s feature is an emotional roller coaster through pain, change and recovery. For Alain, he had never lived in comfort. Losing his wife for questionable reasons, Alain was left with his son. With no sense of how to care for them both, he convinced his sister to take them in and tried to find work in a new place. He was not shy about his sexual nature or lack of commitment, but the combination of his disconnect and aggression was a double-edged sword. It served him well in a fight but not for his personal relationships. To make a more significant commitment, he needed to experience turmoil to realize what he truly needed. For Stephanie, her life dramatically changed after the injury and she needed to contact someone…anyone when she felt left alone. Feeling uplifted by Alain consideration and attention, she found her strength to get back out into the world. She still struggled with the inconsistency of their relationship, but she committed hoping to eventually find something more serious between the two of them.
There is a rawness to this film that makes it so gripping. The tattered relationship between Alain, Sam and Anna ebbs and flows between periods of highs and lows. Anna struggles with Alain’s lack of attention, especially with a wildly explorative son. When Alain’s involvement with the security program goes south, the tension in his confrontation with Anna is intense and uncomfortable. Stephanie goes through some extremely difficult emotions when she first discovers the results of her amputation, clutching a scalpel underneath her sheets. Her neglect of taking care of herself when Alain comes over after the accident screams the sadness and depression she is feeling. Even as she is recovering and returning to a more regular lifestyle, her face is written with the pain and anguish of loss and defining her new life.
A somewhat overshadowed story, the gritty performances of its stars are something to see. Rust and Bone is one of the better foreign films to get press in the States in the past few years.
Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5