Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) is put in charge of his young son and takes a job as a nightclub bouncer to earn a wage. When he helps killer whale trainer Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) home after a fight, the two part ways, but after she is the victim of a horrific accident that severs both her legs, she leans on him for support and the two strike up a bond.
The story of Rust and Bone (De rouille et d’os in its mother tongue) is so typically French: unusual, quirky, heart warming, but also often harsh and brutal. It strikes a nice balance between being character and narrative driven, which really helps you become invested in the characters and what they become. The film splits its time between Alain and Stéphanie, both of whom have their obvious issues, but more of the focus falls on Alain, which is unfortunate as his story is the least interesting of the two and some may find him rather difficult to relate to based on some of his actions.
One of the standout features of Rust and Bone is its cinematography; virtually every shot is simply stunning. Whether capturing Stéphanie swimming for the first time since her accident or Alain’s gritty world of underground boxing, Jacques Audiard’s direction and Stéphane Fontaine’s cinematography is nothing short of breathtaking.
One of the few contentious issues with the film is its ending. It is too easy a conclusion that focuses far too much on the destination for these characters rather than the journey and, as such, may not feel fully satisfying. Having said that, Rust and Bone is a real life-affirming film about overcoming whatever demons you may have and is one of 2012’s real gems.