Anyone who saw Jacques Audiard’s internationally acclaimed 2009 feature A Prophet, will know how intense his particular brand of story-telling can be. While his work to date has spanned a variety of genres, they have always retained a hard hitting visceral impact that embeds the story in the mind long after the credits roll. Rust and Bone is no exception to this rule, combining a harsh and often violent realism and a tender romantic heart that doesn’t stray into the area clichéd melodrama, this is a film of very real beauty.
The story centres around the lives of two strangers from entirely different worlds who find themselves brought together. Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) is an unemployed single father finds himself responsible for the care of his estranged 5 year-old son and enters the world of underground bare-knuckle fighting in order to earn money, while Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) is a marine wildlife trainer who is scarred by a terrible accident while performing with a group of killer whales. These two lost souls find what is best described as an emotional dependence on one another rather than a fairy tale romance.
The major success of the film lies in the realistic portrayals of these characters and the courage that Audiard has to show them as deeply flawed human beings that don’t conform to our expectations of a traditional love story. It is a rollercoaster of an experience that rises to moments of transcendent beauty, particularly in a mesmerising scene where Stephanie returns to the scene of her accident to dances with a whale through glass, and other times twists into wince-inducing violence that at times pushes the enjoyment of the film but always manages to remain honest to the characters it is depicting.
If one criticism can be made of it, it’s that there are certain sub-plots that pull our attention away from this central relationship which is what powers the feeling of the piece, yet this is a minor faulting to a film that has a dazzling sense of style without seeming over-stylised and a visceral realism without seeming forced. It is a film that doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable subject matter but remains a film that looks to the heart and comes from the heart.
Rust and Bone (2012), directed by Jacques Audiard, is distributed in the UK by StudioCanal, Certificate 15