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In his mid 20s, Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts), a penniless dropout landed with 5-year-old son Sam (Armand Verdure) to look after, goes to stay with his sister Anna (Corinne Masiero) in Antibes on the Mediterranean and starts as a part-time bouncer at a nightclub, where he meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a killer whale trainer at the local Marineland Water Park. It's only after Stephanie has a serious accident at work that she connects with him and an unusual, physical and codified relationship develops between them as Alain gets into the street fight scene - and Stephanie reluctantly at first, follows him.

Review by Louise Keller:
Two damaged souls find solace together in this gritty drama in which physical pain and disfigurement play a key role. Inspired by Craig Davidson's collection of short stories, Jacques Audiard's central characters are outsiders whose acceptance to each becomes paramount as they struggle with their individual challenges. With its extreme elements, the film could easily have become melodramatic, yet Audiard has kept a firm handle on both the action and the emotions, enabling the characters' plight to draw us to them, empathise with them and understand the complexity of all the issues they face. Oscar winners Marion Cotillard and Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts pair beautifully to deliver exceptional performances: always convincing and sympathetic.

The story begins with Alain van Versch (Schoenaerts) and his cute as a button 5 year old son Sam (Armand Verdure) making their way to Antibes to find refuge with Alain's sister Anna (Corinne Masiero). The relationship between them is tense - they are obviously not close and it is necessity that has brought Alain and Sam to Anna's door. The meeting between Alain and Stéphanie (Cotillard) is not one that fairy tales are made of. They meet at a brawl in a local nightclub, after which Alain tells Stéphanie she looks like a slut as he drives her home.

By the time they next meet, several months have passed and life has changed dramatically. We have witnessed the horrific accident at Marineland where Stéphanie works training performing whales and the moment when she falls out of her hospital bed in shock realising both her legs have been amputated. It is impossible to know what prompts Stéphanie to call Alain, but a friendship based on kindness and respect begins. Pity is not part of the equation. The first moment of liberation comes when Alain carries Stéphanie into the ocean to feel the freedom of the waves. Slowly her self-pity and depression turns into hope as artificial limbs provide more freedom. When it comes to sex and desire, Stéphanie is unsure if everything works and on that first occasion, when artificial limbs are pushed under the bed, everything is on tenterhooks. Meanwhile, Stéphanie becomes Alain's support system at the bloody, violent fights for cash, run by a wildcard gypsy (Bouli Lanners), who does nothing by the book.

Audiard concentrates on the relationships. First and foremost is the central relationship between Stéphanie and Alain, which weaves its precious pattern through highs and lows. Also important is Sam's relationship with father and the fallout between Alain and his sister Anna, which impacts on them all. The climactic scenes in snowy Strasbourg, when father and son playfully slide on the frozen lake become life-changing. The sheer power of these scenes is emotional dynamite.

This is a powerful and hard-hitting film that never couches any blows. Like the physical pain that Alain encounters in his fights, Stéphanie's pain devours the bone. Audiard has meshed his characters tightly and beautifully, revealing their need and emotions in a stunningly delivered exposition.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
For all the awards and accolades showered on Marion Cotillard as Stephanie, for my money Matthias Schoenaerts deserves every bit as much acclaim for his performance as Alain, a knockabout, strangely complex young man with self contradictory impulses. Just like a human, I'd say .... This multi-layered film with its characters tossed like flotsam on fate's giant, unpredictable waves drenches us in the intimate details of characters who either have no course (Alain) or whose course is radically changed (Stephanie).

But the central characters are not the only ones in our field of vision: Alain's sister Anna (Corinne Masiero) is drawn into the crazy vortex of Alain's self-indulgent lifestyle when he lands at her home with his 5 year old son, Sam (Armand Verdure - astonishing). Also impressive is Bouli Lanners as security freelancer Martial, whose secretive work involves Alain and causes a major fracture in all their relationships.

Jacques Audiard, whose 2001 Read My Lips is a favourite, has a knack for emotionally disembowelling his characters in a way that is at once graphic and candid, yet sincere and forgiving. He shows Alain's many sides with equal care, from the careless father to the devoted dad, from the considerate lover to the primitive sexual hunter, from the gentle friend to the vicious street fighter. And yes, we can be all those things, as many of us are.

Stephanie, too, is complicated, struck down physically by her accident, but gradually finding her way to a stronger self, a more controlled life, a new aspect of herself she nurtures.

The relationships foster dramatic tension and there is never a dull moment as the pair connect, disconnect, grow and change. At the same time, we are fascinated by the cinematic tricks that take away bits of Stephanie's limbs, with the stumps in full view whether swimming, wheel chairing or making love. And we won't forget the words she gets tattooed on her legs in large letters ...

Published August 29, 2013

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(France, 2012)

De rouille et d'os

CAST: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure, Celine Sallette, Corinne Masiero, Bouli Lanners

PRODUCER: Jacques Audiard, Martine Cassinelli, Pascal Caucheteuax,

DIRECTOR: Jacques Audiard

SCRIPT: Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain (short stories by Craig Davidson)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephane Fontaine

EDITOR: Juliette Welfing

MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Michel Bartholomey

RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes





DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: August 21, 2013

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