What It's About
A hard-edged romance that takes us on a rocky road, "Rust and Bone" is an ultimately uplifting yet unconventional tale of survival. This French film plumbs deep emotions and ponders big life questions with its hard-luck plot, as directed by Jacques Audiard, who dazzled with the bravura "A Prophet" in 2009.
Two characters, both showing tough and fragile sides, are damaged by cruel life events. The aimless, down-and-out Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) travels from Belgium to the French Riviera town of Antibes with his young son so that he can move in with his sister and her husband.
He eventually will grow to love Stephanie, played by the beautiful Marion Cotillard in an unglamorous role, that of a killer whale trainer badly injured in a shocking accident.
Cotillard, Oscar winner for "La Vie en Rose," taps into layers of emotions, again showing that she is an actress of uncommon finesse. Like Al Pacino in his prime and early Johnny Depp, her performance is all about the eyes. She definitely deserved an Oscar nomination.
Schoenaerts is a rising Belgian actor, impressive in last year's Oscar-nominated "Bullhead" and set to star in an A-list cast American crime drama "Blood Ties." His reserve masks hurts and disappointments through life. They make a compelling pair.
The technically-proficient Audiard has a knack for making subtle connections with his subjects, tying things together in an engaging yet unhurried way. He explores how these characters' lives are affected physically, emotionally and mentally -- often bleak, sometimes life-affirming.
What Doesn't Work
It is not an easy film to watch, nor was "A Prophet," but it's the kind that will haunt you for days, weeks, maybe even months.
3 1/2 stars out of 4
Director: Jacques Audiard
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts
Length: 2 hours
Rated: R for strong sexual content, brief graphic nudity, some violence and language
In French with English subtitles