Film: ‘Rust and Bone’ (2012)

Sony Pictures Classics

The saying goes that we choose relationship partners who balance our weaknesses. In “Rust and Bone,” director Jacques Audiard creates a classic pairing of two people whose physical and psychological gaps need deep healing.

Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard), a trainer of orcas who works in a marine theme park in southern France meets Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a brawny bouncer, at a club. They’re both Mars types – highly physical, motivated by risk and unafraid of danger to life and limb. But when Stéphanie phones him for the first time, she’s already experienced a tragic setback. In a freak accident, the brute destructive force of one the whales she oversees has resulted in the loss of both of her lower limbs. Ali, despite an insatiable Martian energy to bed random women, becomes a prime candidate to help reconnect the despondent Stéphanie with her femininity, sexuality, former strength and self-worth. She needs to get her proverbial and literal sea legs back, and fast.

Ali is no prize package. A single father, he’s relocated with his young son to France and thinks nothing of feeding his kid the edible scraps of food left behind by train passengers, or descending on an unsuspecting sister for shelter. Ali’s best asset – his instinctive physicality – is his ticket to a livelihood. In addition to security jobs, he soon finds himself competing in illegal, primitive (Mars) and risky (Mars) fighting matches (Mars) involving bets and cash winnings, an activity that eventually draws in Stephanie.

“Rust and Bone” makes the case for bravely (Mars) giving up any hope of regaining that which has been lost. Stéphanie’s palpable resignation – during her first visit back to the marine park – is a reliving of her old life, with a mystical wonder, as she uses hand gestures to choreograph the orcas. Only this time, it’s through the aquarium glass. And just like that, Mars energy and physical smarts have transmuted into an even stronger entity: will power.

Rating: ♂ (Mars)

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