A city of love. Economic hardship. Family breakdown. Brutality. Sex. Healing. Romance. These are some of the elements that make up the 2012 French-Belgian romantic drama film Rust and Bone (French: De rouille et d’os).
The movie opens up with 5-year old Sam saying ”I’m hungry”, an analogy to the general theme of the film which speaks of needs and desires, and the urge to satisfy them. This speaks of a universal emotion, and instantly, audiences are drawn into this absurd and animalistic, yet haunting and haunting love story.
Later, Sam and his mid-20s single father Ali arrives in Antibes, France, to look for work. Unemployed and without money, Ali lives with his sister Anna who is burdened with problems of her own. Ali is portrayed by Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts. Schoenaerts is a sex symbol and his debut appearance was in the 1992 Oscar-nominated film ”Daens” when he was still 15. Since then, he had starred in several highly-acclaimed films such as the thriller ”Loft” (2008) and the true-to-life drama ”Bullhead” (2011). Truly, Schoenaerts had marked his caliber not only in the Belgian cinemas but also in the international circle.
Ali soon gets a job as a bouncer in a nightclub, and still, he keeps his passion for kick boxing burning. Now comes Stephanie, a party girl who can make every man cry. She and Ali meet at the nightclub, and after a brawl, Ali escorted her back to her home. Stephanie is played by none other than the gorgeous French actress and singer Marion Cotillard who just starred in such quality films as ”A Very Lone Engagement” (2004), ”La Vie en rose” (2007), ”Nine” (2009), ”Inception” (2010), ”Midnight in Paris” (2011), ”Contagion” (2011), and ”The Dark Knight Rises” (2012). I have nothing much to say about her except that her soul in acting far exceeds her magnificent beauty. Her body of work simply speaks for her.
In the movie, Stephanie works in a local marine tourist park as an orca trainer. One day, a tragic accident happened in the park during a show, after which Stephanie wakes up in the hospital bed, only to realize that both of her legs have been amputated. It was a breaking moment as she grasps with the reality of her conditions. As she weeps and groans with the uncertainty of her life and future, Cotillard shines as silver in her performance here, an explosion of her talent and prowess.
Meanwhile, Ali finally goes into kick-boxing where he makes more money. Stephanie, now in wheelchair, gives Ali a call and the two sparks a different kind of friendship as one becomes a support system for each other – Ali taking care of Stephanie as she gets artificial limbs, and Stephanie accompanying Ali in his kick boxing competitions. But fate has its inner workings and soon, the couple follows a journey of healing and redemption, of honesty and acceptance, and of surrender and moving on. As another tragedy looms in the way of these two souls, will there uncertain kind of love brave the test? Will they remain strong and resilient as bone, or will they crumble like rust?
The film is directed by Jacques Audiard whose films like ”The Beat That My Heart Skipped” (2005) and ”A Prophet” (2010) earned him several recognitions. Rust and Bone is not an exception as it manifests his skill of weaving a timely and moving surreal story of love and hope. There are no pretenses in the movie as characters are portrayed as who they are really are: Ali as hot-headed and rude man, and Stephanie as proud and manipulative woman. Despite the tragedies, the characters are not made saints which is how reality works. Simply said, character development is subtle and truthful as the plot unfolds into a climactic change for both main protagonists. In the end, audiences would love them for all their savageness and brutality.
The movie, actors and director of Rust and Bone had been nominated at a number of awards, including wins for Schoeneart as Most Promising Actor at Cesar Awards, Best Actress for Marion Cotillard at Hawaii International Film Festival, and Foreign Language Film of the Year at London Film Critics’ Circle. As of February 2014, the movie scored 7.5/10 at IMDb, 73% at Metacritic, and 82% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Rating: Four and a half stars out of five for this movie. The movie has a great plot and beautiful casts, but it leaves audience clueless as to where the story goes.