Rust and Bone is a raw and gritty love story from director Jacques Audiard, whose last film was the harrowing prison drama A Prophet. This new one’s a much easier watch, even if it is liberally studded with abrasive arguments and reversals of fortune, mainly because there’s a real sense of redemption here with the characters eventually transcending their misfortunes, which range from the petty to the life-shattering.
The two main players here are Ali, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, a kind-hearted chancer who’s washed up at his sister’s house with his young son in tow at a coastal town in the South of France, and Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard), a trainer of killer whales. Ali’s scraping a living through a string of security and doorman jobs but doesn’t seem too bothered about life, except when his responsibilities towards his son are brought to his attention – he’s happy to spend his free time making money in terrifying backstreet boxing matches and indulging in guilt-free casual sex. He’s a nice enough guy though to want to help Stéphanie out when she suffers a personal calamity although he barely knows her, and he doesn’t seem to be motivated to do this out of anything other than his essential good nature. She in turn starts to be drawn to him, but this isn’t anything like your standard issue Hollywood romance. The two are obviously attracted to each other but there are plenty of gnarly complications and differences of outlook to work through if they’re ever going to make it work. By the end both characters have been put through the mill, and both have learned to cope with what they’ve been missing.
So this is a pretty involving, well-considered piece of work but: I’ve got to say I was distracted throughout by one specific aspect which kept me from really surrendering to it. Ironically, it’s the success with which the film-makers achieved one particular physical effect that kept stopping me in my tracks – in the interest of avoiding spoilers I’ll stop here and won’t say any more other than “How the hell did they do that?”
P.S. Soundtrack note: there’s some good use of modern rock and indie songs, but after hearing John Cooper Clarke last week say how proud he was that his Evidently Chickentown was used on The Sopranos it was particularly nice for it to also crop up here.