Review: Rust and Bone (Audiard, 2012)

November 28, 2012 6:06 pm

Given his last two efforts, The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005) and A Prophet (2009), it is something of a surprise that director Jacques Audiard did not venture off once again into the dark criminal underworlds of which he has been deservedly praised for portraying. Rust and Bone, on paper (and in its enticing theatrical trailer), looks like a full-blown love story, the antithesis of the type of cinema, Audiard has hitherto created. But the love of Rust and Bone is no normal love, it is a primal, struggling and sordid affair, built on heartbreak and despair. This is a love story seen through the eyes of its relentless director.

Stephanie (played by Marion Cotillard, who may well have given the performance of her career) lives a life she, in part, takes for granted. A whale trainer/performer for a Sea-life theme park, she spends her days entertaining hundreds of people whilst at night she entertains herself; a patron of dingy clubs, she fleetingly toys with both strangers and the bottle. Meanwhile, a low-life boxer Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) is travelling across the country with his estranged son in tow, attempting to establish some type of connection along the way. Stephanie and Ali are from completely different worlds, but when fate throws them together, these worlds collide, for better or for worse. The act of fate in question? After a tragic accident whilst on stage, Stephanie has to have both of her legs amputated just above the knee. Her life is changed forever, but with the brutish Ali at her side, she begins to learn how to cope.

That isn’t to say there aren’t obstacles. At first Stephanie becomes a recluse, trapped inside her apartment, refusing to see the world or to allow the world to see her. The animalistic Ali, however, allows her to once again feel comfortable in her body after the pair become something of a couple. Slowly she reconstructs herself, using Ali as a comfort whilst simultaneously trying to tame him. In a sense he becomes her new training project; a clear parallel is made between the unpredictable whale and the equally unpredictable Ali. ‘Unconventional’ is the word best used to describe what Stephanie and Ali share, and whilst they both to an extent use each other, they quickly begin to become more emotionally invested.

Charting the new found pair’s tumultuous relationship, the film combines Audiard’s now established eye for cinematic image and powerhouse performances from both Cotillard and Schoenaerts. Moreover, Audiard clearly knows what he is doing with music as well; the film featuring a brilliantly implemented double helping of Bon Iver’s Wash and The Wolves, which thematically bookend the film. Whilst the story suffers in places (it becomes evident that the characters of Stephanie and Ali were sourced from different narratives, albeit both from the same author, Craig Davidson) the emotional intimacy of the film makes it a sight for sore eyes amongst other films of the more traditional romantic type. Its inherent juxtapositions of violence and tenderness create something quite jarring, but equally refreshing and this certainly pays off. In many ways, Rust and Bone marks another step in Audiard’s climb to world domination.

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