MRR Movie Review: "Rust and Bone"

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A French-Belgian film co-written, co-produced & directed by Jacques Audiard based on Craig Davidson's short story collection of the same name. Following the plot that originates in Davidson's written version of the story, this drama mystery film profiles an unemployed 25-year-old man who falls in love with a killer whale trainer (played by Marion Cotillard). The bond between the two only deepens after the woman is involved in a tragic accident. Acting as Cotillard's character's love interest is Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, who plays the male lead of Ali.
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MRR Movie Review: "Rust and Bone"

-- Rating: R (strong sexual content, brief graphic nudity, some violence and language)
Length: 120 min
Release Date: November 23, 2012
Directed by: Jacques Audiard
Genre: Drama/Romance

Forced to deal with mistakes from his past, Alain "Ali" van Versch (Matthias Schoenaerts, "Bullhead") finds himself stuck in a cycle of bad decisions and worse results. He stumbles onto another lost soul, Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard, "The Dark Knight Rises"), and embarks on a life-changing journey that brings balance to his new role as a single father while helping his new friend through a crisis of her own.

"Rust and Bone" is not a typical romance, and its lead characters aren't the inspiring, respectable creatures commonly found in Hollywood dramas. Adapted from a collection of short stories by Craig Davidson, "Rust and Bone" relies heavily on common struggles to fuel the characters' motivations. Like life, the movie provides no easy answers or happy endings, and the result is often a frustrating and gritty examination of healing despite of life's never-ending challenges.

Ali, a struggling unemployed kickboxer, is thrust into the role of being a father when he learns the son he abandoned has been removed from his ex-girlfriend's custody. The father and son move from Belgium to France, where Ali's sister has a menial job as a grocery store clerk. She finds her brother a job working as a bouncer in a nightclub; his shady boss soon has him installing illegal security cameras throughout businesses in the area. Soon after, Ali meets Stéphanie, a marine life trainer, at the nightclub one evening; he flirts with her despite the boyfriend at her side.

When a training accident leaves Stéphanie alone and without legs from the knees down, she finds herself reaching out to Ali for reasons she can't understand. While in many films, such would seem an unlikely scenario, "Rust and Bone" uses the talent in Cotillard and Schoenaerts to remind audiences that bad things happen to real people.

Stéphanie struggles with her newfound vulnerability and turns to Ali's strength and daring. In turn, he's drawn to her resilience and generally flattered by her female charm. The two come together as friends and as casual lovers; however, eventually Stéphanie's feelings grow stronger and go ignored by Ali. As the brazen sexuality she was first drawn to repairs her broken self-esteem, her need for a committed and loving relationship spoils the physical attachment they share.

Ignorant to Stephanie's needs, Ali continues to seek fulfillment through his friend and other women. It is representative of his self-focused attitude throughout his whole life, and it keeps catching up to him. Through questionable activities, Ali takes care of his bills but creates enemies. Now, because of the hidden cameras he's installed at her job, his sister is caught on tape improperly disposing of expired food and is fired. She kicks her brother out of her house and Ali and Stéphanie wind up losing touch.

Although audiences are drawn to Ali's masculinity and charm, his biggest fans are frustrated by his actions at this point. Nearly all the young man's problems are his own fault, and he doesn't have the thoughtfulness to see how he is using and harming the other people in his life. It isn't until Ali is displaced once again and forced to deal with the tragedy of nearly losing his son that he realizes his need for Stéphanie's support and the importance of cleaning up his life. Here, audiences don't just sigh with the appreciation of love realized, but in relief.

Jacques Audiard isn't known for making easy movies. The screenplay he has crafted twists and turns characters from their worst to their best and back again, through the frustrations of daily life, common problems, and people's rage and tear. At the end of "Rust and Bone," however, our leading man gets his girl and finds peace with the role he plays in his son's life. It's a fulfilling tale, if often an infuriating one, and reminds us all that growing up and getting over the past is seldom as simple as choosing to move on.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars