Rust and Bone follows the character of Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) as he tries to make his way through life as best he can. We first see him with his son, Sam (Armand Verdure), on a train, collecting scrap food from receptacles. They’re heading towards his sister, Anna (Corinne Masiero), who he’s planning to stay with for a while. He ends up getting a job with a security company and has a chance encounter with a woman, Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), who trains whales at a water park. There is an accident at the park, and Stephanie ends up losing her legs. The film takes us through Alain’s experiences as he sees all of these relationships through.
Alain is a character of much contrivance. He comes off mostly as a drifter with little to his name. His inability to pity Stephanie is what benefits her as we watch her recovery, but at the same time we see him have the same approach to how he handles his relationship with his sister and his five-year-old son. His response to anything he can’t quite control is to lash out at it, with scenes of him shouting and punishing his child. In one moment we see him throw his son across the room, and the child ends up hitting his head on a table. We see so many moments in which he’s being loving and compassionate, but in times when things aren’t good he almost can’t manage to keep being loving.
That very problem is what makes his other relationships, those with Anna and Stephanie, so interesting. Alain meets Stephanie and has a weird matter of factness about him. After her accident, when her self-loathing and depression are at all-time highs, he comes in with his nonchalant attitude towards her new handicap, and it’s great. Even as their friendship progresses and they can just sit around and talk about something like the fact that he has women friends who when he’s available and willing they enjoy having sex with him.
It isn’t until the final scenes, when audience members’ tears will fall, that the film allows for any real emotion to come out of Alain. He’s a man who’s just trying really hard to move on to the next thing and keep living. We start to think of the beginning of the film, when he and his son had nothing, trying to get to this next place. We begin to ask questions of the mother (which I honestly can’t remember if they ever answer in the film) and how that relationship between she and Alain ended and how that guided his relationship with Stephanie.
The film on a whole is a great dramatic feat. However, there are a few choice moments which come off as a bit too manipulative. There’s a scene with Cotillard where she is doing her whale show routine to Katy Perry’s “Fireworks,” and if you’re not ready to buy it, laughs will begin to come from the audience. There are one or two others, but overall the film manages to deliver its tear jerking blow effectively.
The Upside: Amazing characters that allow the drama to be touching and interesting throughout the film.
The Downside: Every so often it gets a little cheesy.