Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) dreams of becoming a professional boxer. When he is suddenly put in charge of his five year old son, he moves in with his sister for support. Whilst working as a nightclub bouncer, he meets the beautiful and confident killer whale trainer, Stephanie (Marion Cotillard). He gives her his number, not expecting that she will ever call. After being the victim of a tragic accident, Stephanie surprisingly turns to Ali for support. These lost souls discover new meaning in life together when Ali enters the dangerous world of underground boxing.
Rust and Bone is a French language film starring Marion Cotillard that was nominated for the Palme D’or at last year’s Cannes film festival, as well as a host of other awards in the more recent BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards.
The film tells the story of Ali, a twenty-something father given full guardianship of his young son; moving with his son from Belgium to live with his sister and her family Ali struggles to hold down a job and dreams of being a kick boxer. During a temporary job as a bouncer at a nightclub he meets Stephanie, a woman who works at a sea life centre training killer whales. Shortly after their meeting Stephanie is involved in an accident whilst at work and wakes at hospital to discover her legs have been amputated, whilst Ali is finally given the chance to live out his dream in the kick boxing ring.
As ever however, things are not smooth sailing from this point on and although Stephanie’s friendship with Ali allows her to reach out from the darkness of her depression (eventually acquiring prosthetic legs and learning to walk again) Ali continues to seem afraid and distanced from the emotions that are growing between them.
Rust and Bone is another brilliant example of the sheer talent and gravitas that is Marion Cotillard, her role as Stephanie allows her to explore a vast range of personal identities as well as the tumultuous climates of love and depression. Prior to her accident Cotillard fills the screen with her sexuality, confidence and grace without a hint of the lewd or melodramatic overtones of many of her Hollywood counterparts; whilst after her accident, which is quite graphically detailed on screen, the sense of her loss of identity is almost palpable, her emotional pain epitomised by the absence of her legs.
Unfortunately for Cotillard Rust and Bone is simply one in what has been a long line of movies exploring the relationships between the disabled and non-disabled, though one at least takes comfort in the way in which director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) refuses to succumb to the traditional sugary sweet veneer that glazed earlier movies like Forrest Gump. Ultimately however Rust and Bone is not really anything new, emotional, captivating, brilliant, Yes, butt original? No.