In the world of cinema, French films are well known for being both beautiful and often a bit stylistically strange. However, Rust and Bone manages to transcend some weird faded camera angles, and succeeds in telling a moving, powerful story that is worth seeing.
The film’s plot centers around two main characters, Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard). After suffering a debilitating accident as a whale trainer, Stéphanie reaches out to Alain, a bouncer she barely knows, in hopes that he might shake her out of a self-imposed depression. Being a single father, however, Alain has a few problems of his own, including holding down two jobs and reviving a career as a bare knuckled fighter. These two form an unlikely bond that blossoms from a friendship into a strange ongoing romance. But when unforeseen circumstances cause him to lose his job and home, Alian makes a decision that may sever their relationship beyond repair. Whether or not their love will last, is only one of the many deeper issues that each are facing in their own lives.
Writer and director Jacques Audiard, who also helmed 2009’s critically acclaimed A Prophet, reteams with cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine to craft a beautifully shot and inspiring film. The casting here is unique, as the original short story from Canadian author Craig Davidson, had Cotillard’s character written as a man. That having been said, the performances by both Schoenaerts and Cotillard, which range from subtle to explosive, should definitely be in the running for this year’s award season. The film does a unique job of exploring some stereotypes of men vs. women in relationships, and how each one affects the other. At the heart of it though is the human condition, and what it means to truly help another person in both a large and small capacity.
Some people claim they don’t like to read when going to see a movie, this may be a reason why big studios here have never been quick to back most foreign language films. Another reason is they tend to feel longer then their actual run time. Unfortunately this is true of Rust and Bone, which clocks in at 120 minutes. It’s not that the pacing is slow, but Audiard does take his time with the story, which in the end is not a bad thing because it serves the film well. Fair warning: This movie is not one for the kids. While the fully nude love scenes and realistic mixed martial arts fights are well executed, they may be a little too much for a youngster to handle.
Most American moviegoers wouldn’t be able to tell you the last French film they saw. Even 2001’s Academy Award nominated Best Foreign Language Film Amélie (which was praised by critics) didn’t garner that much attention from Cineplex patrons. Slowly but surely though, US audiences are coming around, and as it’s already getting Oscar buzz, Rust and Bone will more than likely get a big push to end up in more theaters. Which will hopefully mean more viewers and not empty seats. In these last few weeks before the New Year, there are many quality movies currently in theaters. Don’t let the subtitles throw you off, this is assuredly among the best out there and deserves some attention.