Movie review: Rust and Bone

05:00 AM, Jan 25, 2013

Marion Cotillard plays a woman who loses her legs to a killer whale in Rust and Bone. (The Associated Press)/

Written By Bill Goodykoontz | Gannett Chief Film Critic

CriticÂ’s rating: 10

There is something about two broken people trying to create something whole that is endlessly appealing to movie audiences.

That certainly holds true in Rust and Bone, Jacques Audiard’s film that improbably brings together a down-and-out would-be fighter and a suddenly disabled woman, each needy in different ways, who find solace and some sort of completion in each other.

There is melodrama aplenty here, but Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts are outstanding as the woman and the fighter.

It’s the rare movie of this sort that dares to show its ugly side. That is what enhances the somewhat basic story of loss and redemption that Audiard, also a co-writer, is trying to tell. So do the performances, along with some first-rate digital manipulation, used in the service of the story and not as a gee-whiz trick of the trade.

Alain (Schoenaerts), known as Ali, is on the run with his son and shows up at the home of his sister, Anna (Corinne Masiero), in Antibes. He’s not much of a father and doesn’t really know what to do with his life, although he seems to have some interest in becoming a mixed-martial-arts fighter. With Anna’s help he finds a job as a bouncer in a nightclub, which is where he runs into Stephanie (Cotillard).

She works in a park kind of like Sea World, in a job that’s part animal trainer, part entertainer. Despite having a live-in boyfriend, she enjoys flirting; that’s what causes a ruckus that leads to Ali taking her back to her home. They, too, flirt a bit, but nothing comes of it.

Then, at work, tragedy strikes. An accident with a killer whale leaves Stephanie a double amputee, both legs gone at the knees. (The special effects are astonishing, as is Cotillard’s physical performance.) She descends into depression and out of what seems either whim or desperation, gives Ali a call.

Ali, it should be noted, is about a half-step up from a mindless brute. By this time he’s fallen into bare-knuckle fighting, for which he has just the right skills and temperament. Which is to say, he’ll keep fighting no matter what.

He and Stephanie form a friendship and then an intense sexual relationship. Their need for each other is raw, almost animal — something neither realizes until it happens.

Rust and Bone is a satisfying story of yearning and, eventually, satisfaction.