Jacques Audiard is the talented French director whose film A Prophet was a gritty and tough prison drama that provided an insightful study of power. It illustrated the irony that crime is seeded and carried on within prison systems everywhere. In Rust and Bone, he focuses on two independent people who are forced to deal with setbacks and personal tragedy. We watch attentively as they demonstrate resiliency in the face of pain and disappointment. As Audiard unspools their lives in front of us, we are compelled to ask ourselves whether or not we have what it takes to survive amidst a sea of troubles.
Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) arrives in southern France having taken his five-year-old son Sam (Armand Verdure) from his mother, who was using the boy to smuggle drugs. He clearly loves the boy but doesn't really know how to care for him. He moves in with his wary sister (Corinne Masiero) who works as a cashier in a supermarket.
Ali lands a job as a bouncer at a club. One night he rescues Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) after she gets a bloody nose in a fight. She is impressed with his kindness but put off by his lack of emotional maturity.
Stephanie works as a trainer of orcas at Marineland. One day one of the huge whales breaks out of its container, landing on her body. She awakens to find that both her legs have been amputated at the knee. She descends into a deep depression, refusing to leave her apartment. Then one day she decides to call Ali. He convinces her to go out and takes her to the beach. After watching him swimming in the Mediterranean she decides to go in. When he carries her into the water, it marks the beginning of her slow return to the land of the living.
Soon they begin having sex and seeing each other regularly. She meets his son and even becomes involved in his part-time career as a bare-knuckle boxer in illegal matches. He unleashes all the anger he carries within and goes on from victory to victory. Under the influence of the boxing promoter Martial (Bouli Lanners), he also helps set up surveillance cameras for chain store managers who want to spy on their workers. This ends up creating a crisis with his sister and more challenges for Ali's attempts to establish a normal family life.
Audiard and his cowriter Thomas Bidegain make the most of the evolving relationships between Stephanie and Ali. The film offers a convincing portrait of two very different individuals who bounce back from some serious set-backs. Neither Stephanie nor Ali demonstrate that their resiliency is based on strong character traits. Rather it seems to emerge from a basic survival instinct, fed in part by the desire to connect with at least one other person.
Special features on the DVD include a commentary with director Jacques Audiard and co-writer Thomas Bidegain; deleted scenes with commentary; the making of Rust And Bone: a film by Antonin Peretjatko; VFX Breakdown by Mikros; and On the Red Carpet: Toronto International Film Festival.