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Oscar wining French actress Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose) hates filming sex scenes. For her, they are the worst kind of Monday morning, the worst aspect of being an actress. Add sex scenes to a liberal adaptation of Craig Davidson’s acclaimed short stories in which her Stephanié becomes a paraplegic and you can almost taste the fear.

Yet rise to the occasion she did with a visceral performance that went a considerable distance in earning Rust And Bone a Palme D'or nomination plus a couple of Golden Globe noms including one for Cotillard herself. Of course the celebrated director Jacques Audiard made his contribution. Noted for narrative gems like The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005) and the award winning, soul-destroying criminal exposé A Prophet (2010), Audiard takes an unsympathetic look at what happens when two broken people try to fix each other.

Alain is a damaged father (Matthias Schoenaerts) hoping to make a new life for his son in Antibes. With little idea how to do either very well, he drifts through a few jobs while letting his put-upon sister do the work of raising the boy. He meets Stephanié shortly before the whale trainer looses both legs in a work accident. The unlikely couple are drawn together by their problems, but what glues them together is sex and with all the onscreen immediacy it demands.

Rust And Bone is a searing portrait of angst-ridden masculinity and femininity in crisis. Weak stomachs beware as you prepare yourself to be roughed over by a hard-hitting story and Cotillard’s ballsy performance, especially once Alain discovers the financial rewards of a local fight-club and the emotional cost of careless parenting. All of which has the raw material for an over-earnest tear-jerking melodrama of histrionic sentimentality. Oddly, it's quite the opposite; an endearingly romantic movie which finds its feet in honest, life-affirming struggle.

While Stephanié's legs, attached or otherwise, are a very simple metaphor, they're not Rust And Bone's biggest driver. It's sex, the passion that develops from surprising intimacy and the unexpected, life-changing control it affords everyone. Audiard hasn't crafted a 'serious' disabled movie to counter The Intouchables (although the lack of pity has a parallel). As Cotillard said, this is a movie about flesh. It's about humanity. It's a knock out.


Previewed at Sony Theatrette, Sydney, on Monday 14 January 2013

Rust and Bone (2012) on IMDb

Marion Cotillard
Matthais Schoenaerts
Armand Vedure
Céline Sallette

Jaques Audiard

Jaques Audiard

France (subtitles)


120 minutes

March 28, 2013
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