Genre: Drama, Romance
Directed by: Jacques Audiard
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts
After a string of memorable performances in the US, including in The Dark Knight Rises, Inception and (most note-worthy) Public Enemies, Marion Cotillard triumphantly returns to French cinema. Rust and Bone (or De rouille et d’os) is a moving and memorable tale about love and the power of companionship.
Cotillard plays Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, who has a chance meeting one night with Ali, an ex-professional boxer who’s struggling to take care of his young son. However, after Stephanie suffers a life-changing accident, their relationship begins to grow, and they begin to help each other rise above what’s holding them back.
Admittedly, it’s not the most original narrative; people helping each other through tough times whilst simultaneously falling in love is the subject of countless films. Rust and Bone even includes a neat, Hollywood ending that perfectly ties up the story and leaves all the characters smiling. But what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in dramatic superiority; Rust and Bone takes you on an unforgettable journey that can have you smiling one minute and holding back tears the next.
It’s a film that is carried by its cast; Marion Cotillard is one of the finest modern-day screen actresses and her performance here is nothing short of spellbinding. Her power comes from creating a character not instantly likeable, but whom you feel true pain for as we watch her react to discovering how much her life has changed. Her scream of pain when she first awakes in hospital is gut wrenching to watch.
However, Matthias Schoenaerts, who plays Ali, equals Cotillard’s performance. Similarly to Stephanie, Ali is not an instantly likeable character and as the film goes on, he remains a hard character to truly bond with. But despite his actions, some of which are unforgiveable, he is a man who deep down, wants to do good and the authority of Schoenaerts’s performance allows you to root for him while always remaining wary of his actions.
The film truly sparkles though, when the two leads are on screen together. The developing relationship between Stephanie and Ali is what drives the film; she looks to him as a way of helping her rise above her disability and he looks at her as a possible way of getting his life back on track, if only he could focus. The moments when you clearly see just how invested Stephanie is in their relationship and how Ali isn’t, is heartbreaking; the film showing relationships as something both have to work at for them to succeed and how they fail when one or the other doesn’t try.
It’s all held together perfectly by Audiard’s excellent direction; he’s an auteur with a true eye for capturing humanity when pushed to the edge, with a beauty and subtlety rarely seen in American cinema.