Sex and disability seems to be a hot topic in movies lately. On the heels on Helen Hunt peddling therapeutic sex lessons for sale to John Hawkes’ nearly completely paralyzed virgin confined to an iron lung in The Sessions – and not such a stretch considering what befell his character’s unfortunate body parts as Teardrop in Winter’s Bone – comes Marion Cotillard’s double amputee lust junkie in Rust And Bone (De Rouille Et D’Osstars).
Written and directed by French filmmaker Jacques Audiard (The Prophet)and adapted from a short story collection by American writer Craig Davidson, Rust And Bone stars Marion Cotillard as Stephanie. She eagerly engages in an unusual gig as a trainer and performer with orca whales at the Marineland park in Antibes, on the Cote d’Azur in Southern France.
Avidly athletic as well is Alain, played by Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts – who nearly devoured the screen as a ferociously buffed up steroid guzzler in last year’s crazed controlled substance crime thriller, Bullhead. No less a menacing brutish grouch in Rust And Bone, Alain is a club bouncer and aspiring bare knuckles boxing contender by day. The odd couple with somewhat compatible emotionally frigid dark sides encounter one another by chance, when the strictly one night stand womanizer Alain drives Stephanie home from the club one evening to the apartment of her less than pleased live-in lover. This, after she’s found sprawled on the sidewalk at the losing end of a drunken encounter. End of that story.
But when Stephanie loses her legs in an accident and starts summoning Alain to help her with some daily activities, he takes quality time out from brawling and babe-scoring around town, for no particular reason. Alain also has a few unsavory sideline activities going on at the same time, that include the single dad brutalizing his young son when not setting up surveillance gadgets in factories, to keep tabs on worker infractions and get them fired. None of which seems to dampen Stephanie’s love jones for this unsavory guy.
And without revealing too much, though you’ve likely figured out where all this is headed anyway, everybody finally sees the light on fast forward with happy endings all around, and in the absence of just about anything to warrant those radical personality transformations. Even if the dynamic, intense performances on hand tend to serve as cover for the shallow storytelling. As for Alain, he eventually decides that entry into full time boxing is the way to go, to find dignity and get liberated from worker exploitation. Go figure.
Sony Pictures Classics