Despite being two things that would ruin a lovely cheese and pickle sandwich, I have no idea what the title Rust and Bone refers to. However, I get the feeling the film is going to stick with me for a long time to come. It chips away at your brain with very realistic details and exchanges until it’s a certainty some of the scenes will be etched on your frontal lobe. It’s an odd film, really. The big event that brings everything together is a freak killer whale accident at a marine park, which certainly wins it points for originality.
Rust and Bone tells the story of Orca trainer Stephanie (Marion Cotilliard) and part-time bouncer, full-time deadbeat dad Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) who are drawn together after a chance violent encounter at a club. From there the film spins intertwining tales as Stephanie learns to get her life back on track and Ali decides to take up backyard kickboxing to finally get some cash flowing. The two leads are brilliant. Marion Cotilliard is kind of stuck playing aloof glamourous ladies in Hollywood films, but here she gets to let loose as Stephanie, a damaged but determined woman. She’s incredible to watch. Matthias Schoenaerts is also great as Ali. I wouldn’t say Ali is the most likeable character out there, but I really had a problem with him. He’s entirely selfish, a terrible father and soon evolves into a posturing macho dickhead. I just found it to be rather frustrating in his company.
It’s almost like director Jacques Audiard has been challenged to make a real-feeling film out of the craziest elements possible. Reading the plot summary back, I’m surprised that some of the more ludicrous elements washed over me without triggering any bullshit alarms in my brain. Instead of being an eye-rolling affair, the story is rather touching and even gave me an appreciation for Katy Perry sugary pop hit “Firework”. In fact, I think the fact that Rust and Bone lends genuine emotion to some pseudo “believe-in-yourself” mawkish toss encapsulates the film rather nicely. It grounds the ridiculous and makes the shallow seem deep.
I liked Rust and Bone, but I didn’t love it. For me, everything was tied up just a little too neatly. Maybe it’s because I disliked Ali but I wanted him to actually learn something and pay penance for his mistakes. I’m on Team Karma when it comes to people like him and the fact that he doesn’t get a hefty knee to the balls (figurative or literal, I’m easy) disappointed me.
Rust and Bone is the sort of film that creeps into your head when you’re day-dreaming. It features some gorgeous cinematography and powerhouse performances from the leads. See it- you certainly won’t forget it.