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Movie review: Rust and Bone

Compelling characters carry this French film

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

February 2, 2013 | 10:43 a.m. CST

Boy meets girl. Boy gives girl his number. Girl calls boy… after girl loses legs in a tragic orca-training accident.

Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone veers in places toward soap-opera contrivance but is grounded and elevated by exceptional leads.

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Marion Cotillard gives an unquestionably stellar performance as Stephanie, the “girl” in question. Her portrayal of a woman waking up to missing limbs is excruciatingly believable. Cotillard makes a seemingly sick joke into a trial that’s real and accessible. Matthias Schoenaerts, in turn, somehow makes Ali, a brutal, selfish anti-father figure, likeable.

Based on a short story collection of the same title, Rust and Bone is about two castoffs struggling to find renewed meaning in life. Ali is running from his own set of problems, including a wife using his 5-year-old son (played by the adorable Armand Verdure) as a drug mule. The two meet at a nightclub but don’t actually develop their relationship until Stephanie’s accident.

As the movie progresses, Stephanie and Ali comfort each other without realizing how desperately they cling. Watching them heal together is heartwarming. Although they try to deny their attraction, unforeseen obstacles and the third-act climax force a romantic — and hopeful — resolution.

Rust and Bone’s original short story format is evident; the film is segmented into discrete sections and events. Excellent transition scenes save it from being choppy.

Capped with a fitting Bon Iver soundtrack, Rust and Bone is a lesson in well-developed characters worth caring about.

Vox Rating: V V V V

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