Rust and Bone ***½ (R) In this French subtitled drama, Marion Cotillard stars as a whale handler at a Sea World-type park until she suffers a tragic accident. She meets an attractive guy (Matthias Schoenaerts) who is rough around the edges, but surprisingly solicitous with her. That’s more than we see him giving to his own relatives after he and his son had to move in with his sister’s family due to his lack of funds. His methods of rising to solvency are not exactly the stuff from which heroes - or even protagonists - are made.
The principals and their interactions meander through emotionally and morally shaky ground with a couple of steamy scenes and some remarkable f/x and camera work along the way. Cotillard, who frumped herself up for a breakout performance as Edith Piaf in La vie en rose, is both lovely and engaging in this portrayal of a lonely woman struggling to overcome horrific, life-changing injuries. Schoenaerts’ character offers an enigmatic mix of tough love and callous self-interest, with little to distinguish one from the other, or even let us know what his motives are in any given moment. As is often true with French dramas, the ambiguities of plot and character will seem either compelling or tiresome, depending on your mood. An actress like Cotillard can usually keep the odds in favor of the viewer. (1/11/13)