WRITTEN BY: Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain
DIRECTED BY: Jacques Audiard
STARRING: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure, Corinne Masiero
RATING: 3.5 stars
Two flawed characters struggling with their individual plights, supporting one another, bringing out the best in each other and overcoming life's obstacles. It is a beautiful notion that is exquisitely executed in Rust and Bone. Though it's not an amazing French film, it will linger with you. It is poignant, abstract in parts, raw and thought-provoking.
Rust and Bone is based on two unrelated short stories in a book written by Canadian author Craig Davidson. Co-writer and director Jacques Audiard has fused the stories together very well. Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) leaves Belgium with his son Sam (Armand Verdure) and moves in with his sister Anna (Corinne Masiero) and her husband in Antibes, France. After getting a job as a bouncer, Ali meets a whale trainer named Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) when he saves her from a brawl and takes her home. He leaves his number with her but does not expect to hear from her again. When Stephanie has an accident at work and loses both her legs, she contacts Ali and the pair strike up an unusual friendship.
The plot is entirely character driven. There are events that obviously keep the story going, but it is really about the protagonists and how they respond to the situations they find themselves in. The character arcs are long and fulfilling for audiences who enjoy characterisation in stories. In some ways, the protagonists aren't all that likeable and yet, you do want them to succeed. It is because – not despite – their flaws and downfalls that you are on their side. While some parts of the film are totally predictable, others go off on unexpected tangents that intrigue you further with the story.
Cotillard is very impressive in such a challenging role. The scene in which she realises she has lost her legs and her character's struggle to adapt to the dramatic changes in her life from making a coffee to being able to enjoy sex and feel sensual are moving. Equally, Schoenaerts gives a powerful performance. His character is so complex in the way he endears himself with his behaviour towards Stephanie and then behaves so abhorrently with Sam. He is both violent and consoling. It's an interesting blend.
Rust and Bone is a unique film. Although it is spoken entirely in French with English subtitles, it is not just for foreign film fans.