'Rust and Bone' Review: Gritty French Drama Driven by Great Performances

If you aren’t a fan of Katy Perry’s song “Firework,” you most likely will be after watching “Rust and Bone.” The song is given a whole new meaning paired with Marion Cotillard’s character, a woman struggling with the will to live again.

Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a single father who leaves the north of France to head for his sister’s house in Antibes with his estranged five-year-old son, Sam (Armand Verdue). Ali finds a job as a bouncer at a nightclub and during his first few nights of work he meets Stephanie (Cotillard), an orca whale trainer who works at a Marineland Park. Ali is immediately attracted to Stephanie and gives her his number, though at the time Stephanie was not interested in dating.


What seems like only a few days later, a freak accident occurs at Marineland Park and Stephanie loses her legs. When Stephanie wakes up in the hospital, she is in complete shock, looking down at the flat white hospital sheet at the foot of her bed.

Now in a wheelchair, Stephanie has to adjust to this new way of life and is looking for a friend she can depend on. She ends up calling Ali, who has heard about the accident from the news and Ali comes over to visit Stephanie. What Stephanie originally planned as a one-time phone call, eventually turns into a strong friendship.

Cotillard is terrific in "Rust and Bone," and at times there were scenes that were harder to watch than others, as her character struggles with the will to go on living. Cotillard is good, but she’s not necessarily worthy of a Best Actress nod. I’d argue her performances in “La vie en rose” or even “Inception” were better overall. At times I thought she was being a bit overdramatic in a few of her scenes, and her “poor me” story was becoming exhausting to watch.

Cotillard is getting the majority of praise for this film, but its Schoenaerts that really stood out for me. I haven’t seen much of his work before, but the Belgian actor gives a fantastic performance as our male lead. Ali is an angry, egotistical father, but when he is with Stephanie, he is completely likable. It’s as if she brings out the best in him. It’s rare for an actor to have these different emotions come across onscreen.

The beauty of “Rust and Bone” is the story of these two people who bring back each other’s spirit. Though Ali may not want to admit it and Stephanie afraid to lose him as a friend and lover, these two have an undeniable attraction for one another.

Although a little melodramatic at times, “Rust and Bone” is a film unlike any other this year. It’s one of the most unconventional love stories ever told on-screen with fantastic performances from Schoenaerts and Cotillard.


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