Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
" The Beat That My Heart Skipped" and "A Prophet"
Writing an original romance drama is easier said than done, but Jacques Audiard does it so effortlessly, with force and grace. The screenwriter/director managed to wow critics with "The Beat That My Heart Skipped" in 2005, then again for "A Prophet" in 2009. While "Rust And Bone" lost the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival to Michael Haneke's "Amour", it does not make "Rust And Bone" any less fantastic.
Based on the short story of the same name by Craig Davidson, "Rust And Bone" chronicles the romance between two deeply flawed characters; a beautiful killer whale trainer played Marion Cotillard and an unemployed 25-year-old brute played by Matthias Schoenaerts. Ali arrives in Antibes, southern France to look for work while he and his young son, Sam, crashes with his sister Anna who already has her own share of problems with money and temporary employment. Ali then meets Stephanie during his stint as a bouncer at a night club known as Annex, when she is injured in a brawl, and offers to escort her to her home. After he unintentionally offends Stephanie by calling her a whore, he expects her to want nothing to do with him, only to have her contact him out of loneliness when she loses both her legs in a freak accident during a killer whale show. The two first form an unlikely friendship that eventually blossoms into casual sex and a partnership, but is hampered by Ali's inability to take responsibility as a father and ultimately, as human being.
From the beginning, Audiard 's "Rust And Bone" completely wraps the audience up in his character's emotions and does not let go for 120 captivating, intense, and almost heartbreaking minutes. After their uneasy initial exchange, the connection between Ali and Stephanie grows stronger over the course of the film, and it is clear that Stephanie is the perfect foil to Ali's sudden tempers. On paper, this premise sounds like a soap opera, instead, Audiard steers the film with a delicate intimacy and maturity that wholly mesmerizes; every shot here floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. The scenes where Stephanie guides the killer whale in the aquarium without words and when Stephanie steps out of the van to look at the losing Ali are examples of this directorial tour de force.
Both of the leads are fantastic, but Marion Cotillard in particular steals the show as the killer whale trainer who is forced to confront her own shortcomings when she has both her legs amputated. In one scene early in the film, Cotillard performs a series of gestures for the killer whale to the soundtrack of Katy Perry's "Firework", and it surges out of the screen like a flood tide. It is hard not to empathize with her as she weeps on the floor upon discovering that her legs are no more, and throughout the film, she maintains this level of raw, emotional and deeply moving acting using an array of facial expressions and body language that transcends her limited ability to move around that is as deep and effective as any monologue. Schoenaerts is fantastic as well, displaying a range and nuance that fills Ali out as more than an insensitive brute. His Ali is something akin to a wild animal, where he tries to fulfil his duty as a single parent, but finds his soul through kickboxing. As Stephanie puts it, we do not know him like she does. Though the relationship between the two is certainly an important aspect of the film, ultimately the story is one of self-discovery, for both Ali and Stephanie.
If there is a flaw to this film, it is that the actions of the characters can be hard to follow at times. It must be remembered that "Rust And Bone" is no fairy tale, and its characters cannot help but behave in ways causing destruction that only they themselves can dig out of but the raw performances and Audiard's inspiring direction are so effective at getting you invested in these characters that this minor quibble is quickly rendered insignificant.
In seeing Ali's life spiral out of control when he fails to see what is important in favour of his devil-may-care life, the audience is presented with a raw and powerful story of the redemptive power of love. With impeccable performances, inspired direction, beautiful cinematography, and a devastating story, "Rust And Bone" marks one of the best romance dramas in recent years and another gold star for director Jacques Audiard.Cinema Online, 21 January 2013