Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard)

Marion Cotillard excels in this passionate love story as a whale trainer who loses her legs in an accident, and meets the bare-knuckle fighter who teaches her how to live again.

Party girl Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) meets security guard Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) when she gets in a fight in a nightclub. She isn’t badly hurt but he drives her home and they part ways. The next day Stephanie returns to work at Marineland, where she trains killer whales. Soon catastrophe strikes and Stephanie is pulled into the water and her legs are bitten off.

Wheelchair-bound, Stephanie becomes depressed and reclusive, but contacts Ali on a whim and begins a friendship with him. She finds his casual approach towards sex and bare-knuckle fighting alarming, but soon warms to his unprejudiced attitude, and his young son who needs a mother figure.

A Hollywood version of this film could have been corny and soap-like, but Audiard’s characters are passionate and real, and the way that they are shot makes this story incredibly powerful.

The CGI special effects are stunning, appearing to erase Marion Cotillard’s legs as if by magic. These impressive techniques are mind-boggling; her legs aren’t tucked away by some clever camera angles, they’re simply gone.

The film also tackled the awkward subject of sex with amputees in an intimate no nonsense way not usually seen on film. As in the recent French hit Untouchable, where a paralyzed man was sent on a blind date, Rust and Bone tenderly shows its characters’ healthy love lives despite their physical disability.

Marion Cotillard gives a staggeringly beautiful performance, giving emotional depth and veracity to the role. This is arguably her best since her Academy award winning turn as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose (2007).

Jacques Audiard has fast become the World’s favourite French director, and certainly one of Europe’s greatest talents, in this follow up to his macho prison drama A Prophet (2009).

His previous features have been showered with awards, and Rust and Bone has now earned a selection of its own, recently winning the Best Film prize at the London Film Festival, and being nominated for the Palme D’Or earlier this year, too.

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