Rust and Bone (De rouille et d'os)

Directed By: Jacques Audiard

Starring: Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts

At the indie box office, it seems to be the weekend for depressing movies.  After revisiting one of the worst natural disasters in human history, I now get the distinct pleasure of watching Rust and Bone, a movie about a killer whale trainer who loses her legs in a tragic accident with the very orcas she trained.  What happened to putting out happy movies around the holiday season?  These aren't the kind of movies that leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling or put you in the Christmas spirit.

Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a former fighter who misses his days of kickboxing.  He's taken his five year-old son Sam (Armand Verdure) from the unhealthy environment in which he is being raised and moves to Southern France.  Unemployed and broke, he moves in with his sister Anna (Corinne Masiero) and gets a job as a bouncer at a local club called the Annex.  While working one night, he breaks up a brawl and helps an injured woman named Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) home.  In the process, he gets her number.

Stéphanie happens to work as a killer whale trainer in a local marine park where they do shows for tourists with the whales.  At one performance, there is a tragic accident during which Stéphanie is seriously injured.  As a result, doctors are forced to amputate both her legs.  When Stéphanie awakens and learns of this new challenge in her life, she goes into a deep depression.  Eventually, she decides to give Ali a call.  He visits her, and they begin spending time together.  This leads to a casual relationship and a bond between these two.  Meanwhile, Ali is interested in getting back into the world of kickboxing.

In the French-Belgian drama Rust and Bone, director Jacques Audiard boldly tackles the intricacies of a relationship with a handicapped lover.  To some degree, Audiard delves into some of the same emotional complexities we saw in The Sessions earlier in the fall.  However, there's a bigger story here about modern relationships as this casual thing between Stéphanie and Ali evolves into something more.  These two lovers are struggling to recognize that they actually love one another.  They're contemplating the merits of making a serious commitment to this relationship that's not very well defined.  Audiard runs with this material and creates a complicated tale of romance.

The acting from Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts are second to none.  For her part, Cotillard gives a subtle, understated performance.  Whether struggling to recover from a life-changing accident or pondering whether "it still works", she gives a graceful yet powerful performance as Stéphanie.  For his part, Schoenaerts brings a raw energy to the film with his emotion exposed like a nerve.  It's a very authentic performance characterized by a healthy amount of tension.  Together, these two make a great pairing on the big screen.

I only have one issue with Rust and Bone.  I can't buy the ending.  I won't reveal what happens in the movie.  I will say that it's not believable. I just can't swallow it.  That being said, Rust and Bone is an enjoyable romance that delves into some of the complexities of modern love.  Grab a few wine coolers for this one because Rust and Bone gets a 0.03% rating.