Rust and bone is the taste in the mouth when one takes a punch. It’s also the title of the French film, just opened in Australia, starring the spectacular Marion Cotillard as Stephanie, a young woman who suffers a punch that would fell many.
The film begins with Ali, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, travelling from his native Belgium to the French Riviera with his five year old son, Sam. Ali is a hard-case, a drifter, a bit of a thug, and he’s taking his son away from his ex-partner who was using him as a drug courier. He has no money and scrounges leftover food from the bins and seatbacks of the train for Sam and him.
When they arrive in Antibes, Ali and his son move in with his sister whom he hasn’t seen for years, and he manages to pick up work in various dodgy occupations including nightclub bouncer and installing illegal surveillance cameras. Along the way he meets Stephanie who works, in one of the bizarre aspects of the movie, as a whale tamer at the local aquarium.
One day, at the whale show at the aquarium Stephanie suffers a terrible accident and she wakes in hospital with her legs having been amputated above the knee. A little while later, out of hospital and suicidally depressed, she remembers she has Ali’s card and calls him.
Ali, with his fecklessness and disregard, is just what she needs. He treats her without pity, and piggybacks her to the sea for a swim. He asks, deadpan, if she wants to have sex after she’s just talked up a self-pitying monologue,
It’s been so long I don’t know if it’s still working down there.
The remainder of the film is a poetic and moving love story in which each of the characters learns the terrifying lesson: that becoming vulnerable to another is where the pain and risk and magic lies.
By the end of the film, the carapace of numbness, the anaethetised life most of us lead most of the time, has cracked open for both Ali and Stephanie, and what emerges is fierce and wonderful.
The film lingers in the mind like a beautiful dream, wisps of sun dapples and sea and Cotillard’s exquisite profile, Ali’s eager face at the truck window and a feeling of triumph.
Of all the admiring reviews of the film, I like Peter Bradshaw’s line the best. Bradshaw, ever-brilliant reviewer of The Guardian, says this:
Passion is a word casually thrown around in the movies; so few films come anywhere near it, but Jacques Audiard’s film really is passionate, surging out of the screen like a tidal wave.
To read Bradshaw’s full Guardian review, click here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/nov/01/rust-and-bone-review