This new French drama from Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) may rankle some in its plot machinations, but it turns out to be more absorbing and emotionally resonant than expected.
Rust and Bone (in French with English subtitles) stars Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard and is set mainly in the south of France.
Schoenaerts's Ali is a struggling single dad hitchhiking to get back on his feet with assistance from his sister (Corinne Masiero) and her husband (Jean-Michel Correia) while pugilistically earning a living. The tale hinges on the relationship that develops between Ali who also is a bouncer and killer whale trainer Stephanie (Cotillard) especially after she has an awful accident at the marine park where she works.
The immaturity is evident in a character like Ali and Schoenaerts (Black Book) imbues him with realistic flaws and candor as well as strong paternal qualities. Maybe Cotillard has the more showy performance after a surreal turn lets her character pivot through loathing and agonizing exigency. And, the actors share an intriguing, if quirky intimacy in a challenging way their characters tentatively bond.
While it stays on the primary connection, Rust and Bone has a creditable way even if its short story antecedent courtesy of Craig Davidson (that figure street violence observation) may dilute the overrall impact.
In supporting efforts, Armand Verdure is quite cute and likable as Ali's young son Sam, Bouli Lanners stands out in scenes as a fight planner, and Correia and Masiero are rather impressive in their appearances.
It must be said that an assured Audiard knows how to get alot out of a glamorous Parisian like Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises and Midnight In Paris) and a sensible Schoenaerts to adroitly harness the encounters and confrontations and dark wit with a raw, visceral intensity that leads to a wrenching last reel. One where there will be some suspension of disbelief needed in the apprehension as some normalcy comes at a price and catharsis.
So, the potent persuasive flair of Rust and Bone comes from its acting and filmmaking which makes use of lush lensing and an effective score by the diverse, extremely aplomb Alexandre Desplat complemented by a popular Katy Perry tune. This cinematic exploration may not be the kind of firework that arthouse cineastes see as a prolific synthesis of story and character but has a hearty emotional charge all of its own.