There is an aquarium scene in 2012’s Rust and Bone wherein Marion Cotillard, playing a woman (Stephanie) who has lost both legs to an orca accident at a sea park, goes back to visit the killer whale. She stands in front of the tank — soaked with blue — the prosthetic ankles of her new legs firmly planted into her sneakers. She uses her palm to softly smack the glass once and then again to call the whale over to her. She holds both hands up, touching the glass the same way she would touch the whale, if she only could.
She nods and the whale moves its head in a nodding fashion. She takes her right arm and lifts it, points, and the whale swims away, the scene not ending until the last flick of its slick black tail disappears. In the scene preceding the aquarium one, Stephanie is on her balcony in her wheelchair, doing the same semaphore-like arm motions to Katy Perry's “Firework” that she did before the accident. It, like the aquarium scene, is a scene of both hope and sadness. Healing and wonderfully human moments in a movie that also has scenes of such intense, devastating violence. I had to close my eyes.
Though I was blown away by Cotillard’s performance, in truth, I only watched Rust and Bone originally because of Matthias Schoenaerts, the actor who works alongside her. I have a crush on him. My celebrity crushes are emotional rescue when the world is too much. Like a security blanket or a warm mug of tea, they serve a right, proper, selfish purpose — one piece of the puzzle to your girl’s chill, emotional well-being.
I tend to watch movies in batches, in organized, themed groups. Like the books I choose to read, I most often watch movies for the actors/characters and not the plot, although there are plenty of exceptions. But as pretty much a life rule, whenever I fall in love with someone (new to me) on my screen, I will go back and watch most (if not all) of their movies. And this time, it’s Matthias Schoenaerts.
I’ve had plenty of crushes in my lifetime, both real and celebrity. When I was a little girl, I had a crush on the boy up the street who cut the grass with his shirt off. His name started with a T, and he was older than me. I can no longer picture his face, but it was the idea of teenage T, shirtless, riding the push mower that I liked. I couldn’t have been any older than ten and had absolutely no clue what sex was or what my feelings were, but I liked looking out the car window when we drove past his house and seeing him out in the yard. I liked thinking about him. That’s most of what it comes down to for me: what I like thinking about. A way to curb my anxiety and anxious thoughts. You could be mine, could be mine, could be mine, all mine. Right?
Matthias Schoenaerts is an incredible actor, and also easy on the eyes. He’s very pretty, handsome, manly, sexy, handsome, sexy, manly, wow OK yes exactly, etc. He has a great nose, a great walk. He looks really good with a beard and bed-head. He looks fetching in scarves and sweaters. He tends to play characters who are complicated, quiet, and dark. Characters I maybe shouldn’t root for, characters I should probably hate but don’t. Like in Rust and Bone, he plays Ali, a knucklehead. A boxer/brawler type who has recently come into custody of his five-year-old son. Ali is not a good father. He is neglectful and violent. Should it surprise us when he is so tender with Stephanie? Brutal tenderness and tender brutality are common threads running through Schoenaerts’s work, so much so that for a while he had those phrases listed as his Instagram bio.