Written by Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain
Directed by Jacques Audiard
Starring Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts
We can all carry pain, often better than we might expect. French director, Jacques Audiard’s RUST AND BONE is a frank and honest reminder of just how much of that pain we can actually bear. His follow up to the brilliant, A PROPHET, creates its own narrative path toward a level of understanding that can only likely be had by those who have come to the very edge of losing everything they hold dear. For those of us fortunate enough to not know this kind of pain, and for those of us who aren’t afraid to go there, Audiard makes it possible for us to get a glimpse of just how crippling that pain can be.
RUST AND BONE is a romance for those who walk around angry with the world, for those who have lost all faith in even the idea of love. Audiard splits our time almost evenly between Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Stephanie (Marion Cotillard). He is directionless father, who has just taken responsibility for his young boy; and she is a killer whale trainer, who is in a bad relationship. They meet in a bar one night, when he breaks up a fight she gets hit in, and drives her home. Shortly afterwards, she gets into an accident at work with one of the whales during a show and loses both of her legs. They find each other again when she leaves the hospital and form a relationship that is clearly foreign, and frightening, to both of them. Both actors play their parts as entirely self-involved individuals masquerading as self-sufficient ones, so much so that they are practically oblivious to how damaged they’ve become at their own hand. Cotillard, in an inherently showy part, takes a decidedly more subtle approach than one would expect, which allows her to get uglier than I’ve ever seen her get before.
There is nothing sentimental about RUST AND BONE and it requires a certain ability on the part of the viewer to be able to handle its weight. Beneath that weight though is a tiny bit of hope that one would have thought to have been long dead. As Ali and Stephanie begin to spend more time together, and as a physical connection grows between them, they become aware, little by little, of the walls they have built around themselves over time. They were originally meant to protect but have evolved into a tool to keep them separate. The fight back is not an easy one in the least but, like the film itself, it is worth going through to come out the other side enlightened.