Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Movie Review: "Rust and Bone"

While the old adage that opposites attract is true, so too is the philosophy that people who are alike are drawn together, whether the characteristics they share are positive or negative. That idea is at the heart of Rust and Bone, a compelling French movie from director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet).

Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), an aimless wanderer with a bit of a violent streak, moves from Belgium to France with his young son, Sam, in tow. He isn't a particularly responsible father, and is more than happy to leave Sam in the care of his sister, Anna, and her husband, while he looks for a job, works out, and chases after women.

One night, while working as a bouncer at a nightclub, he breaks up a fight involving Stephanie (Marion Cotillard of The Dark Knight Rises, Inception and La Vie en Rose), a defiant trainer of killer whales. Ali escorts her home and leaves her his cell phone number in case she ever needs help. Meanwhile, Ali switches jobs to working for a security company, where he helps a friend install secret cameras in many stores so that management can spy on its employees.

A few months later, Stephanie calls on Ali after she is involved in a horrible accident that leaves her a double amputee. His brand of tough love (more tough, less love) helps rescue her out of her depression and isolation, and makes her start to want to engage in life again. Ali, who has boxed previously, has been enlisted by a friend to start fighting for money, no holds barred. The fights are brutal but the money keeps coming in, and Stephanie feels herself drawn to the violence of his fights.

The two are drawn together physically, but Stephanie's stated desire to keep their relationship a physical one belies her feelings. And when a series of incidents cause Ali to leave town one night, leaving Sam behind with his sister, he abandons Stephanie as well. But when Ali hits rock bottom following an unexpected incident, Stephanie returns the favor he paid her months before.

I wasn't quite sure what to make of the movie when it started, but the plot and the performances really drew me in. Neither character is wholly sympathetic but you definitely find yourself invested in their stories, which are told in a very unflinching manner. While it's always interesting to watch a movie with subtitles because you find yourself reading as much as watching the actors express themselves, both Cotillard and Schoenaerts' performances are moving, emotional, and powerful.

This is a story of two people with self-destructive tendencies brought together in times of crisis. It's a well-done movie worth watching, so if you're not put off by subtitles, I definitely recommend it.

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