Rust and Bone
’s soundtrack features Bon Iver, “Love Shack” by the B-52's, and Katy Perry’s “Firework.” Such contrivances are rivaled only by the film’s implausible premise: A driven trainer of orcas (Marion Cotillard), who has just lost her legs in a freak accident at a Sea World-like park on the French Riviera, falls in love with a thuggish drifter (Matthias Schoenaerts). It sounds like a romantic melodrama that’s been sprinkled with Free Willy
dust and set to a college freshman’s road-trip playlist. And yet, in this film about beating the odds, both soundtrack and plot manage to do just that. Schoenaerts’ character, Ali, is a nightclub bouncer who breaks up a fight involving Cotillard’s Stephanie and escorts her home, nonchalantly commenting that she’s dressed like a whore. When he notes the photos of whales, she spits back: “You’re surprised a whore can train orcas.” But the relationship doesn’t build until after Stephanie’s catastrophe. Writer-director Jacques Audiard doesn’t really explain what impels Stephanie to phone Ali after losing her legs, but by this point, we don’t care. We’ve seen each character broken—Stephanie physically and Ali spiritually—and their union feels hard-won. Cotillard turns in a phenomenal, intoxicating performance. With eyes that simultaneously exude warmth and steeliness, she conveys Stephanie’s anguish, shame and eventual embrace of pleasure with raw energy and vulnerability. Rust and Bone
recalls The Sessions
, another recent picture about sex and disability. In both, what begins as an act of physical therapy for a single character becomes hard-fought emotional rehabilitation for both participants. Based on a true story, The Sessions
has a leg up on Rust and Bone
, but the latter pummels and tenses in ways the former doesn’t.