Release Date: 2nd November, 2012
Director: Jaques Audiard
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure
With much of the public attention focused firmly on the 23rd release in the Bond franchise, Jaques Audiard’s latest drama Rust and Bone works well as an intense counterpoint to the 00’s capering adventure. A distinctive departure from his previous directorial venture (A Prophet, 2009), this methodically-paced film starring Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard wallows in tragedy, love and violence in equal measure to ensure a puffy-eyed departure from the auditorium as the credits roll.
The film tells the story of an out of work single-father, Ali (Schoenaerts), who struggles to make ends meet and provide for his son, Sam (Verdure). As a result, they are taken in by Ali’s sister whilst he seeks to provide stability for his family. Over the course of the film he garners work in the security sector during which time he encounters Stéphanie (played sublimely by Marion Cotillard) — an orca whale trainer. The two are brought closer together in the aftermath of a brutal accident and the majority of the film explores developments in their relationship.
While the central romance between Stéphanie and Ali is foregrounded in the marketing material for the film, Ali’s struggle to connect with Sam as a father figure throughout is equally as compelling. His treatment of the boy seems more like that of a younger brother than a son and throughout there is the distinct impression that Ali is out of his depth raising the child — his anger, incompetence and naivety bubble to the surface, and Sam witnesses the brunt of Ali’s pent-up frustration first hand.
Rust and Bone is a beautiful looking film. The slow pace of the narrative is punctuated by a fittingly lingering aesthetic that seeks to highlight a beauty even in the more violent sequences. As an example, the aforementioned accident isn’t presented traditionally as a tense, fast-paced moment of horror, but instead a sea of color and motion. Later, scenes of visceral violence are dressed in tastefully-used slow motion allowing for interesting — even humorous — imagery such as an extended shot of a bloodied, knocked tooth dancing gracefully through the air. However, the soundtrack seemed a little inconsistent and lacking in the same care — some choices felt out of place and detracted from the film’s tone, although other sequences (particularly the closing scenes set to Bon Iver’s ‘The Wolves’) worked effectively.
The second act of the film becomes a little problematic in its predictability and for a good half hour Rust and Bone becomes an exercise in sexual tension and aggressive stupidity. While the lumbering pace of the film is undoubtedly intentional, the central romance stumbles through a rote series of pitfalls which felt quite unnecessary. In order to escape from this series of events to transition into the third act, the film throws a curveball in the shape of a severely-underdeveloped subplot which felt quite forced and mechanical. Had there been a little more time spent to allow these subplots to mature, the overall transition might not have felt so cheap.
Ultimately, though, Rust and Bone delivers as a memorable and touching drama. The central performances and great cinematography make it easy to forgive any mishaps that may occur along the way — just be sure to come equipped with a Kleenex.