Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Rust and Bone

(De rouille et d'os, France, 2012)

This one is a strange sort of mix of different elements. It sort of pops in and out of the story of these two people and when it reaches a certain point, it just stops.

The most dramatic part concerns Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard), who is an orca trainer at a French Marineland. There is a terrible accident and she loses her legs. It’s too chaotic to see what actually happens, if the orca bit her legs off, but I guess it doesn’t matter. They’re gone. She has to adjust, and she’s doing it badly.

Then there is Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a drifter with a young son. They meet at a disco just before her accident. She calls him up some months later, and he comes over, and a friendship develops.

He is a very simple man. Not simple as in stupid, but as in uncomplicated. He likes to fight, and has vague dreams of a boxing career, but what he does is arranged no-holds-barred street fights. The sort you can see on YouTube, or elsewhere on the Internet. They keep fighting until one can’t get up, bare-knuckled, no biting or eye-gouging allowed … maybe. It’s primitive and ugly. I will never understand the kind of man who likes to fight, with gloves or just picking a bar brawl. They exist, and they might as well be from the planet Tralfamadore to me.

And I don’t understand the kind of woman who is attracted to men like that. Maybe I should say “a man like that.” She might not have been before her amputation, but she can’t resist him now. He is so simple: fight, fuck, and food is his philosophy of life. He’s a terrible father, though he loves his son. He leaves the boy with his long-suffering sister most of the time, until he screws her up and she kicks him out.

I think I do understand something of what she sees in him. From the very first time she calls him and he goes over to see her, he is so matter-of-fact about it all. He makes no big deal of it. He carries her, and he talks with her. At some point they discuss the facts of her sexuality, and he casually says “You wanna fuck?” with about the same intonation he would ask if she wants to go to the beach. He just doesn’t seem to notice her stumps, or care. (There are guys out there who are ATTRACTED to amputees, and I imagine that would be pretty creepy.) He just doesn’t give a shit. In fact, he cares not quite enough, and it doesn’t seem to me that it will work out. She needs an emotional attachment, and he either doesn’t, or won’t acknowledge it.

But when something terrible happens to his son, and he nearly dies, he seems to have cracked a little. He says those magic words: Je vous aime. And that’s where the story ends. Small glimpses into the chaos of real life. Will their affair last? Will he ever box again? (Unlikely, as his hands are screwed up badly.) What will he do if he can’t fight? Will she go back to training whales? We will never know. And that’s okay.

Have to say a few words about the CGI. We have come a long way in the almost twenty years since Forrest Gump, when Gary Sinise seemed to have no legs. It was hard to do back then. Now they are able to do a nude love scene with her stumps clearly visible. How they do it I don’t know, but they do it. And it’s still damn amazing.