Marion excels in deep drama
Love is messy and chaotic in Jacques Audiard's grimly compelling romance about two damaged souls who are thrown together just as their lives are falling apart.
Shot without sentiment but a great deal of empathy, Rust And Bone captures the passion and roller-coaster emotions of the wayward characters as they wrestle with their predicaments.
Marion Cotillard, who won an Academy Award as Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose, is a strong contender for another golden statuette.
She delivers a mesmerising and emotionally raw performance here as an aquatic trainer facing adversity.
Equally powerful is co-star Matthias Schoenaerts, who catalyses electrifying sexual chemistry with Cotillard.
Stephanie (Cotillard) trains killer whales but her close working relationship with these majestic creatures ends when one orca severs her legs, resulting in a double amputation.
An earlier one-night stand with Belgian brute Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) – a single father who doesn't know how to care for his six-year-old son – sows the seeds of an unconventional romance.
He has come to Antibes to forge a better life for the boy and is crashing with his estranged sister Anna (Corinne Masiero) and her husband, Foued (Mourad Frarema).
Ali ekes out a meagre living as a nightclub bouncer, making extra money in bare-knuckle brawls.
When he encounters Stephanie after her accident, his complete lack of pity is a tonic.
Adapted from a short story collection by Craig Davidson, Rust And Bone eschews crocodile tears by observing Stephanie and Ali's dalliances with cool detachment.
Cotillard's vulnerability contrasts with Schoenaerts's rugged masculinity, and their scenes together ring true as Ali literally carries her towards physical rehabilitation.
"You OK, Robocop" he asks tenderly as Stephanie acclimatises to her prosthetic limbs.
Audiard directs with aplomb – the scene in which Stephanie loses her legs, shot from the bottom of the crystal blue whale pool, is both beautiful and shocking. He delivers another sharp jolt in the closing minutes, shattering any illusions that there is anything more than a pinprick of hope at the end of a very long tunnel for both characters.