Rust and Bone Review

Walking out of the screening of Rust and Bone, I was overwhelmed by one central question, where was the rust?

Was it a symbolic metaphor for the central characters who are the forgotten members of society, outdated models of humanity left to eke out an existence in a gritty world that’s quick to forget them in favour of the sleek, beautiful people who prowl the south of France’s golden sands and night clubs?

Is it a statement about the eroded emotional state of the film’s protagonist Alain, played by Matthias Schoenarerts, a thirty-something man lost in the harsh and rapid flow of life?

Or was it just a word casually thrown into the title because it sounds cool.

The dilemma of intent and purpose is perhaps the central issues raised in director Jacques Audiard’s meandering yet circular tale.

Rust and Bone follows the life of Alain as he heads to his sister’s house with his young son Sam in tow to restart his life.

Arriving without means or direction, Ali ends up working as a bouncer in a local night club where he stumbles upon the elegant Stephanie who’s been battered during a bar-room brawl.

Needing a chauffeur to drive her home, Ali happily volunteers his services and discovers that there’s more than meets the eye to this attractive woman and her provocative dress sense.

Stephanie’s a whale trainer at a local aquarium, and also has an insignificant other waiting for her at home; nevertheless, Ali leaves his number behind and wanders out into the night.

When Stephanie suffers a horrific accident soon after, it shatters her idea of what she thought life would be for her.

Now slightly desperate, Stephanie calls Ali up who quickly becomes a sort of carer for her; attempting to re-introduce back into to society, whilst also rediscovering his own dreams and ambitions.

Formerly a champion amateur boxer, Ali ends up in the seedy underbelly of illegal fighting thanks to a contact he makes through his security work.

Together yet separately, Stephanie and Ali begin to rediscover their passions in and for life when they had become marginalised and forgotten.

Artfully indirect and sensationally subtle, Rust and Bone glows in reflection.

Tonally the film is well-paced and directed. Audiard looks at his subject through a literal and gritty lens that veers from absorbing to distant, coming up with a meandering study of anti-heroes who are riddled with both flaws and complexities.

Marion Cotillard excels as Stephanie, as do the special effects team, while Schoenarerts is charming and brutal in equal measure; and for all their character’s differences, they’re actually great foils for each other.

Both use their bodies for their work, but Stephanie is faced with how to exist now her physicality has been taken from her. Her struggle to break free from a solitary and self-imposed existence mirrors Ali’s attempt to shatter his own emotional seclusion and make his life how he wants it to be.

The dialogue alone is sensationally vague, allowing the actors room to breathe within the text. For a film obsessed with the physical this feels perfect as bodies, actions and movements carry much of this weight.

Yet, like so many movies, it also loses its way towards the end; unravelling with an unexpected and out of character resolution.

Rust and Bone defies typical definition. It’s a meditative one-two cinematic punch that’s engrossing and unexpectedly enjoyable.

And by the end, I felt like Stephanie was the metallic rust of the title whereas Ali personified the bone, that raw and physical element that grate yet sharpen each other.

Shelton Lindsay

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October 2012
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