Movie Review: “Rust and Bone” – Raw and Beautiful

Written by Emily McWilliams January 13, 2013

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Jacques Audiard’s drama, “Rust and Bone” is a devastating and quiet film that portrays the human body and soul as something made of equal parts fragility and strength.  Audiard directs the camera to capture the plot as it unfolds, allowing for surprising revelations to blossom naturally between characters to create surprising and honest depictions of love and emotion.  “Rust and Bone’s” plot hinges on these small moments that seem insignificant, but later erupt in instants of change that alter the direction and tone of the film.  These jarring changes are what give “Rust and Bone” a raw and gritty texture and set it apart from other conventional dramas.  The performances by the film’s main actors, Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts are complex and dynamic, making this film a showcase of sublime acting talent.

Drifting Through Life

Ali (Schoenarts) and his young son, Sam, have left Belgium and are moving to France to stay with Ali’s sister.  Ali begins a job as a bouncer at a club and there he meets Stephanie (Cotillard) after she is attacked in a fight.  Ali drives Stephanie home from the bar and learns that she is a whale trainer at a local Marineland.  Shortly after their meeting, Stephanie suffers an accident at her work and loses the ability to walk.  Out of loneliness during her recovery, Stephanie calls Ali and the two begin an unusual relationship of friendship that helps Stephanie while she heals.  In addition to love and companionship, Stephanie accompanies Ali to underground mixed-martial arts fights where he competes for extra money.  During the course of their relationship, Ali and Stephanie will learn about themselves and each other in ways they never imagined to work through the unpredictable pain that accompanies life.

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Cotillard Doesn’t Opt for Sentimentality

Cotillard’s role as Stephanie is a breakthrough for this actress and a role that further adds dimension and versatility to her filmography.  Cotillard doesn’t play Stephanie as a helpless victim like one would expect; instead Stephanie is tough and prickly, sometimes simply unlikeable.  However, there is something about her strength and spirit that makes her fascinating to watch.  This is a testament to Cotillard’s ability as an actress to convey this character without becoming overly sentimental and sappy.

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An Honest Portrayal

Like Cotillard, Schoenaerts is able to captivate the audience even during quiet moments of inner turmoil.  The opening scene of the film that involves almost no dialogue is the very definition of devastation as you watch Ali try to feed his son with no money, while they travel on a train.  Like Stephanie, Ali is portrayed by Schoenaerts with a level of honesty that exposes this deeply flawed character, yet the audience is still able to admire him in his struggle to get through life.

At times, “Rust and Bone” seems like an experiment in poetic realism.  The emotion is unflinching and brutal, and at times, hard to watch.  Audiard films all of this chaos and pain in a graceful, pure style that beautifies everything the audience sees and experiences.  Somehow, this doesn’t take away from the film’s truth but makes it seem even more heartbreaking and agonizing.

My Rating: 7.5/10

 

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