Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a tough guy, both inside and out.
At least, he acts as if he is. So tough that he gets into street fights for money, trading short-term winnings for long-term damage to his body. So tough that he can barely tolerate his young son, or show much interest in a woman beyond having sex.
Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), whom Ali meets at a nightclub, is in her own way as tough as he is. She trains killer whales at an amusement park and seems so happy doing so that she could almost be mistaken for a different person.
That’s before an accident that leaves her legless and radically changes her way of looking at the world.
Against the odds, Ali and Stephanie find themselves connecting. But there’s some part of him that remains guarded, even as he slowly but surely gets under her skin.
Loosely based on stories by Craig Davidson, “Rust and Bone” is a film that’s all the more intriguing for being virtually impossible to categorize.
But that’s just what moviegoers have come to expect from director Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet”), who has a genius for zeroing in on the contradictory nature of human beings. Working from a screenplay that he co-wrote with Thomas Bidegain, Audiard delivers a story that’s refreshingly unpredictable in its roughhewn beauty.
Much has been made of the computer-generated imagery that renders Cotillard wholly believable as a woman without legs. Ultimately, that’s just high-tech magic – what really matters is that we believe in Stephanie’s pain and root for her to get past it.
Cotillard gets so deep inside the character that it’s exhilarating. And as Ali, Schoenaerts matches her for burning intensity.
“Rust and Bone” has heart and soul. ‘Rust and Bone’
* * * *
Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Marion Cotillard
Director: Jacques Audiard
Running time: 2 hours
Rating: R; strong sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, language
Language: In French and English with English subtitles