De rouille et d’os – or Rust & Bone as it is known in English – is a French-Belgian film that tells the story of events that radical change the lives of two people that have just met. It is based on a short story collection by Craig Davidson. Stéphanie – portrayed by Marion Cotillard – works as a killer whale (orca) trainer in a city in the south of France. She seems to have some kind of issues in her current relationship. We first meet her at a club in the city where it is hinted that she is looking for other men. Here she ends up in some kind of fight. It is not quite clear how she is involved, but fact is that she ends up with a bleeding nose. Alain van Wersch – portrayed by Matthias Schoenaerts – who has just arrived in this city with his son, happens to be working in this club as a bouncer. He brings her home, where she again stumbles into an argument with her (soon to be ex-)boyfriend and whereupon he leaves, but not before he leaves a note with his number (just because he is looking for some tail). As mentioned before, Stéphanie works as a killer whale trainer. While at work a terrible accident happens and when Stéphanie wakes up in the hospital she finds out that she has lost both her lower legs. Unsurprisingly she is devastated and falls into a deep dark whole, which is excellently symbolized in the film through the dark room she than stays in. Alain in the mean time has moved on from being a bouncer to being a night security guard. He is also training at a local gym (boxing, kickboxing). After some time (weeks or months) Stéphanie decides to contact Alain and to meet up. They meet up and after having some trouble in persuading her, Alain manages to get Stéphanie outside and to the beach. I see this as the starting point for a emotional rollercoaster ride that involves violence – or rather fighting -, crime, love and most of all hope.
I immensely enjoyed this alternative film. The acting and the interaction between Cotillard and Schoenaerts is both intense and mesmerizing. If I would summarize all the events and themes that are touched upon in this film, it would seem as a rather implausible and over-the-top narration. However, in this film it is brought towards the viewer at a delicate pace and through a thoroughly thought through plot. Jacques Audiard did a great job here.
If anything, you will feel hope in love and love in hope after having seen this film. It will get under your skin and even though it is at times hard to feel sympathy for trailer-trash behavior and the ambition to become a street-fighter, you will feel like you can somehow relate to the main characters. After the film ended, most people in the audience sat silent for over a minute – which not seems like a lot, but which I think is a lot in our fast-paced-always-in-a-hurry-gotta-connect-to-people-on-the-internet-society. While walking home one of my friends who watched the film with me, asked what life-lessons we had learned from it. For me I think, the most important things is that while watching this film – especially towards the end – I felt a kind of hope that there is a goodness in all people. It just needs to be enabled.