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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rust and Bone is an oddly beautiful combination of brutality and beauty that explores some very difficult subjects, including what it's like to lose your limbs, to not know how to be a parent, to be tossing around in a hard scrabble world with a young child you aren't equipped to raise, and how hard it is to tame a beast when the beast is yourself or someone you love very much. There's also full-frontal nudity (albeit briefly), quick flashes of intense sex scenes, swearing (in French with English subtitles), smoking, and drinking. Some fight scenes are bloody and gritty and show faces kicked and beaten to a pulp. But the film also has tons of hope and is made with great care and honesty.
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What's the story?
Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) is beautiful and distant, suffering from an ennui she can't place. She has a job that she loves (taming whales) and a boyfriend she cares about, but she still goes to bars to flirt with men -- though she stops short of sleeping with them. (They don't take it too well.) Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) has just gotten custody of his young son and has brought him to the south of France, where he hopes to start anew. He finds a job as a bouncer and meets Stephanie one night after breaking up a fight between her and a stranger. Sporting a bleeding wound and nursing a hangover, Stephanie is in no condition to drive, so Ali brings her home. So begins a strange friendship that sees the two characters through major highs and lows, including an accident that changes Stephanie's life and, later, Ali's as well.
Is it any good?
Cotillard is quite possibly one of the most soulful actresses on Earth, which makes RUST AND BONE supremely lucky to have her in top billing. As Stephanie, Cotillard is all pain and sorrow and resilience, sometimes in turns, sometimes all at ones. An easy performance it is not. A memorable, award-worthy, honest one? Definitely. There's no artifice at all in Cotillard's arsenal. (There's one particular scene when she sits with her eyes closed on a terrace, eyes closed, ears pricked to music, arms flapping in signal to some imaginary whale, and we are there with her, so invested that we're spent.)
Schoenaerts' Ali makes a formidable other half to Cotillard's Stéphanie; he's bruised and burly and brimming with potential, though he does tend to falter when faced with an option to be noble. He's a good guy who can't quite settle into that role, not yet. Without these two, Rust and Bone would be Hysterics and Rote. Lucky for us, it isn't. And in addition to the performances, the movie also boasts a heart-achingly honest script that isn't afraid to make its two leads broken and human. When they try to put themselves back together again, we want to cheer for them, even though it pains us to see them squander opportunities (especially when it comes to Ali). There's little that's cliched in Rust and Bone, even if people do get what they want and deserve. Their triumphs feel hard-fought, even frail. And so satisfying.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Rust and Bone compares to American romantic dramas. Do Europeans have a different approach to the genre? Are there any commonalities?
How does the movie portray the challenges of parenthood? Does it seem realistic? Is Ali a good father? Why or why not?
Why do you think Stephanie is drawn to Ali, and vice versa? What do they have in common?
- In theaters: November 23, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: March 19, 2013
- Cast: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts
- Director: Jacques Audiard
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship
- Character Strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong sexual content, brief graphic nudity, some violence and language
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