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A single father (Matthias Schoenaerts) bonds with a professional killer whale trainer (Marion Cotillard) after she loses her legs in an accident.
Rust And Bone is an odd film to write about. While watching it, I succumbed to polite single-tear-down-the-cheek weeping during three scenes, before completely losing it during a big emotional moment towards the end of the film, and sobbing like a chastised child. None of the scenes that set me off were to do with what you might imagine in advance would provide the film's emotional bedrock: a recent double amputee (Marion Cotillard) struggling to come to terms with her new life. Instead, it was the relationship between sporadically well-meaning but frequently appalling father Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) and his ludicrously affecting five-year-old son (Armand Verdure, who incidentally has the longest eyelashes I've ever seen not on a drag queen), that set me off each time.
Let's be a bit cute and perhaps overly schematic about this: I'm not sure what this film has to offer the left brain (analytical, sequential). Looked at logically, it presents an all-you-can-eat buffet of soapy absurdities (though surely consciously so). There's an accident at Marineland. There's plenty of "healing sex". There's life-affirming swimming. There's a Katy Perry song. There's a meet-cute involving a fight. I could go on.
Be that as it may, it got under my skin, and not in a way that had anything to do with the camp value you might be starting to envisage. Your right brain (emotion, intuition) can get ready to have a field day; this is manipulation so skilled, that I didn't feel or mind it happening.
In a nutshell: Rather like a persuasive pick-up artist, I'm not sure Rust & Bone is a film I'd want to spend a second night with, for fear of shattering the emotional illusion. Yet, like a persuasive pick-up artist with the goods to back up the lines, for the duration, it's an exhilarating experience.
By Catherine Bray
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