Rust and Bone-De rouille et d'os (4 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by Jaques Audiard (A Prophet-Un Prophete)
Written by Jaques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain (A Prophet-Un Prophete)
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthais Schoenaerts, and Armand Verdue
Some of the best film experiences for me have been when I go into a film without having seen a preview or knowing what the film was about. With Rust and Bone or De rouille et d'os the French title) I had this experience. One of my friends went to Los Angeles premiere about a month or so ago and told me I had to see the film. That was the only thing I had hear. Rust and Bone ended up being in an incredibly raw, emotional journey powered by brave performances, and strong writing/direction.
The film follows the interaction between two people Ali (Schoenaerts) and Stephanie (Cotillard) as they both deal with life changing events. Ali has just gained custody of his young son Sam after Sam's mother was using the boy as a drug mule. The film opens with the two struggling to find their way from Belgium to get to Antibes where Ali's sister lives. Ali wants to be a better father, find a job, but his own personal journey continues to knock him out (sometimes literally as a fighter, and kick boxer). One night while Ali is working as security at a club he meets Stephanie. Stephanie is attacked at the club, and Ali helps her get. Stephanie works with killer whales at a show, and after an intense accident her life becomes intertwined with Ali.
These two continue to face brutal sequences throughout the entire film. Both are fragile characters faced with many challenges as they deal with their own fragility. Stephanie's accident bonds these two people, together they find a familiar comfort in each other's dark recesses. There are moments when you hold your breath thinking how is this possible, and you ultimately leave the film feeling raw. Rust takes you on an incredibly brutal journey, that may not appear to be original, but there is something brilliant about the way this film is constructed.
Audiard's story is a simple dramatic story, which has been told before, much like something from Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. The story is a simple drama, but it's the craft behind the film which helps set the film a part. The shots of Cotillard and Schoenaerts in the water steal your breath away, as well as the images of the whales crashing through the water. Audiard also transports you well into the working class world, or lower class world of France. Most films I have seen about France, tend to focus on Paris, or the beauty of the country, while this film knows the ins and outs of the darker aspects. As you watch this story unfold that often familiar is also changed by the editing, which uniquely helps to tell the story in a way that while sometimes jolting is more inspiring.
While these elements help set the film a part the true stars, which help tell the story best are Marion Cotillard, and Matthais Schoenaerts. Cotillard is a regular name in the States; she has starred in numerous box office successes like The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Public Enemies, and already has an Oscar to her name. Watching Cotillard delve in Stephanie's vulnerabilities is nothing short of brilliant. Even when Cotillard plays someone struggling to come to terms with tragedy, there is such a strong presence within her acting that you get lost in her performances, and this film is no different.
I have never had the privilege to Matthais Schoenaerts on screen before, but I will certainly look for his past work, and look for anything he plans to do in the future. Schoenaert's Ali is one of the most complex characters I have seen in film this year, and Schoenaert commands the screen. Watching him be a brutal asshole, yet hilarious is a hard feet to accomplish, but he does so with ease. Watching Ali struggle as he finds his companionship with Stephanie, is heartbreakingly honest. Together their duo convey love and appreciation, as the deal with one brutal sequence after another.
Rust and Bone is one of those harsh films, which often brings to light some of the darkest moments. The film leaves you thinking about the way people struggle through life to find themselves while their lives intertwine with other people. How do we as humans know ourselves, and care for others. Rust deals some brutal blows to the human psyche, and there are moments where you freeze in your seat, thinking how can this happen. The film is an incredible testimony to the human soul.