05/17/2012 09:40 am ET

Marion Cotillard Cannes Awards Buzz: Actress Shines In 'Rust And Bone'

The Cannes Film Festival only kicked off on Wednesday, but it already has a breakout awards contender in its midst: Marion Cotillard.

"This is early days in the festival, but 'Rust and Bone' has to be a real contender for prizes, and, the odds will be shortening to vanishing point for Cotillard getting the best actress award," critic Peter Bradshaw wrote in The Guardian.

Cotillard -- who won Best Actress at the 2008 Academy Awards for her performance as Edith Piaf in "La vie en Rose" -- plays Stephanie in "Rust and Bone," an orca trainer at a SeaWorld-like facility who tragically loses her legs when one of the whales attacks. It's through a relationship with a shady bouncer named Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts of "Bullhead" fame) that she's able to put her life back together. Or at least try to put her life back together.

"This is a dark tale with corners most of us don't dare venture," Brad Brevet from RopeOfSilicon.com wrote. "Ali soon finds himself installing illegal surveillance cameras as a side job when he isn't getting his knuckles bloody in 'anything goes' bare-knuckle boxing matches; matches Stephanie soon takes a surprising interest [in], and through this connection becomes almost a different person -- or perhaps the person she was meant to be."

Directed by Jacques Audiard ("A Prophet"), "Rust and Bone" is based on a collection of short stories by author Craig Davidson.

"I am once again convinced that Audiard is a major voice, an artist of note, and a gifted humanist filmmaker," wrote HitFix critic Drew McWeeny in his "A"-grade review.

Still, don't be surprised if "Rust and Bone" isn't for you. "Not everyone will connect with 'Rust and Bone,'" wrote Awards Daily's Sasha Stone for TheWrap, "but for those who do the film will burrow deeply in -- for those we've loved and lost, for the dreams we had we could never fulfill, for the moment we discovered that sooner or later life kicks you in the teeth and you have two choices: lay down and die or stand up and fight."

Unlike some festival favorites, "Rust and Bone" is actually headed to U.S. theaters soon enough. Sony Classics acquired the film for release and will roll it into art houses this year. Watch the French trailer for "Rust & Bone" above.

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