Dir. Jacques Audiard
(2012, R, 120 minutes)

Rust and Bone is a film consisting of a handful of separate story threads that never quite come together into a unified whole. It’s structured too loosely for my taste, lacking a strong narrative connection between one subplot and the next. Like life, I suppose, it’s not about any one thing; it’s the sum of different experiences and relationships. But sometimes life could use a stronger screenwriter.

The primary storyline involves Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), who has recently come into custody of his five-year-old son, though not, it seems, after any concerted effort on his part. At first they are homeless, stealing for food. Eventually Ali’s sister takes them in.

After getting a job as a bouncer at a nightclub, he meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), who gets into a fight and needs to be taken home. She’s a whale trainer at an aquarium, and later, after suffering a life-changing accident on the job, she reaches out to him and begins to depend on him.

Another storyline involves street fighting. Ali is a former kickboxer and begins to take matches on the side to make extra money. And yet another storyline: Ali is involved with Martial (Bouli Lanners), who also runs the street fights, in the illegal surveillance of local retail employees.

These storylines weave into and out of each other, intermingling, without ever really building towards a particular end. I felt during the film that incidents were piling up without becoming a complete story; all the ends feel like loose ends, and it drifts along, sort of the way Ali drifts through work, parenting, and romance.

But there are a number of individually strong scenes, including a beautiful shot where Stephanie returns to the aquarium and beckons a whale, which looms over her behind the glass of its tank, and another pivotal scene shot from under the water of a frozen lake. In a way, those scenes mirror each other; both are about reconnecting with something that is loved.

 

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