Rust and Bone (2012)
Director: Jacques Audiard
It has been a long while since I have seen a film that focuses on physical pain in such a visceral manner. Indeed, it is the experience of physical pain that draws the two main characters together. Of course, they also have emotional pain, which they also hope the other will nurse.
Marion Cotillard is great, as always, showing us Stephanie's pain without words. She goes from being closed off to being vulnerable, needing to rely on Mathias Schoenaerts' Ali for help. Having recently seen Schoenaerts as the romantic and gentle Gabriel Oak in Far From the Madding Crowd I was amazed at his performance here. He is a strong physical presence, who finds it easier to be violent than gentle. The fight scenes are full of blood and teeth bouncing on the ground, and Ali often sports bruises and patches as a result. Stephanie's reaction is one of interest: here is a man who understands what physical agony feels like, and she supports his fighting. The third relationship in the film is between Ali and his son Sam, which comes to the fore at the film's end, in one of the most striking scenes of raw emotional I have seen in a while.
This film has some confronting scenes, which are coupled with several of beauty; the most striking is Stephanie returning to the marine park and going through her routine with the killer whale. Without seeing her face, we know what she is feeling: she had momentarily gone back in time to when she was free and in control of her life, but has also resigned herself to her future. A very good film about the effect of pain, and the necessity of vulnerability.