In Rust and Bone, from the French director Jacques Audiard, Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a single father and champion pugilist, goes to live with his sister to find work. His life crosses paths with Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard), a comely orca trainer who's mauled when an animal goes rogue. (Some extraordinary digital work removes Cotillard's legs for most of the film.)
Shot in a verité style, it's a lugubrious slice of lives about two struggling people in different types of recovery, each searching for a connection in a world that seems to discourage it. They become friends, with benefits, as the courageous Stephanié learns to live without legs. She also seems to have no limitations, just as the fearful Ali struggles with his soul to cast off his.
Why would Stéphanie reach out to Ali, whom she'd only met once, and briefly, before her accident? Did she see the sadness in him as well? This is lovely, I suppose, but also quite contrived, and it renders the characters as much metaphor as human, although the actors gently restore the balance. Every scene in Rust and Bone relates to the one before it, but it's finally more interesting as a series of moments than as the bittersweet tale it wants to be.