Film: Rust and Bone (2012)
Cast includes: Marion Cotillard (La vie en rose), Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead)
Writer/Director: Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, The Beat That My Heart Skipped)
Genre: Drama (120 minutes) French with subtitles
Sometimes tragedy happens suddenly, but sometimes, it's more gradual. It's obvious that life has been rough for Alain and his 5-year-old son, Sam. When Sam's hungry on the train going to Anna's, Alain walks through the aisles looking for food others have discarded. Alain's sister Anna at least has a job. As a cashier in a grocery store, she feels it's ok to bring food home that's reached its expiration date. Alain and Anna haven't been close, but Alain now needs help with Sam. "When's Mom coming?" "Soon," says Alain... but it's probably not true. Alain has a good chance of getting the bouncer job he's applying for because he gives the right answers... yes, he's worked as a security guard and yes, he's done some boxing. At The Annex, a local club, Alain breaks up a fight in which Stéphanie gets injured. She's in no shape to drive home, so Alain drives her. He should be more diplomatic, but he wonders out loud why she "dresses like a whore." No wonder she's reluctant to invite him in to ice his injured hand. If Alain weren't new in the area, he probably would have recognized Stéphanie from Marineland, where she's one of their star orca trainers. He's surprised by the photos of Stéphanie and the orcas. Anyway, he leaves his number with her... just in case.
With the music thumping and crowds cheering it's easy to lose sight of just how powerful those great whales are. So in that instant when the accident happens, it all seems so unreal. But when reality comes crashing in, Stéphanie has lost both legs above the knees and she wishes she hadn't survived. Months later, it's the phone number Alain had given her that brings them together again. She needs someone to help her get around. It's curious that Alain has so little empathy about her injury. And perhaps it's his lack of concern that gives her the courage to be around people again. Over time, there's a bond that develops between the two of them, but there isn't much emotional connection. We notice that Alain has trouble relating with almost everyone in his life. He can be abusive with his son. He isn't so nice to his sister. And we wonder if he even knows what he wants for himself. In the meantime, we wonder why Stéphanie looks for relationships in all the wrong places.
The narrative meanders quite a bit, and it's sometimes hard to figure out where it's going. However, as a French naturalistic style film, Rust and Bone is very well done. It's quite violent in places, and because of the naturalistic style, the violence can be rather disturbing. And in keeping with the style, the acting doesn't feel at all like acting. It feels very real. This isn't what you'd call an enjoyable movie, but it isn't meant to be. It's not until Stéphanie and Alain both survive life-altering events that they finally start to develop an emotional connection.
3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
A convenient relationship between two damaged people goes nowhere until life spirals even further down... well done, but not a cheerful ride!
Rated: R (Violence, Sexual Content)
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking
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