But despite his many faults, Ali is the best hope for Stephanie, who is alone, devastated and needs any help she can get.
Schoenaerts is effective as the untamed urban brawler, but Cotillard is the standout — her Stephanie is a bundle of misfiring exposed nerves, and the performance is fully worthy of her recent Golden Globes nomination.
Audiard's selection of a street-fighting kickboxer and an orca trainer as main characters almost seems like a response to a writing workshop challenge, but “Rust and Bone” takes these spare parts and creates something resonant and deeply moving.
Ultimately, the story finds its greatest emotional pull over whether Ali can be who he needs to be for both Stephanie and his little boy, and whether their lives on the margins can be made less marginal.
— George Lang