Film review: RUST AND BONE, from Built For Speed

Rust and Bone is an unusual French romantic drama about broken people seeking repair and redemption.  Unbelievably, the film manages to credibly mix dysfunctional relationships, killer whales, bare-knuckle fighting and amputee sex.

Matthias Schoenaerts plays Ali a deadbeat dad and petty thief who just can’t stay out of trouble. Drifting through life he stumbles from one job to another as a nightclub bouncer, security guard and low rent MMA fighter in brutal back-alley matches. A chance for stability and even love seems to arrive when he meets amputee Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) who suffered horrific injuries in a marine park accident.  His quest to redeem his life is constantly threatened, though, by his addiction to violence and self-destructive behaviour.

Despite its unusual subject matter, Rust and Bone never veers into sensationalism, instead preferring a raw, low-key and matter of fact style.  It’s an often downbeat and violent film but it still contains many touching moments of warmth between Ali and Stephanie.

Those unfamiliar with or not enamoured of no holds barred fighting competitions may, however, find some of the bare-knuckle bouts confronting.  Although director Jacques Audiard pulls away from the combat when blows are delivered, thudding or crunching sounds let our ponder on what might have happened.  This suggestive technique works within the context of this film but let’s hope that a director can film an MMA fight scene in a straightforward and unadorned manner so that we can clearly see exactly what is happening because no film, to my mind, has done that yet.

The success of this film rests on the cast’s performances and these are uniformly excellent.  As Ali, Matthias Schoenaerts is extremely convincing as a selfish thug trying to piece together the decent fragments of his personality.  Ali is often contemptible but Schoenaerts gives him a moving and believable humanity.  Schoenaerts also appears to have done his homework when it came to MMA fighting and boxing as he displays some genuine skills.  Marion Cotillard is equally good in a faultlessly restrained but powerful performance that relies as much on her subtle but evocative facial expressions as dialogue.

Also impressive are the astonishingly realistic cgi effects make it look as if Cotillard has genuinely lost her legs.  Normally we would see effects of this quality in a big budget spectacle film but seeing them in a low budget drama is quite remarkable.

This may be a slight story but the quality of the performances and its unusual but credible characters make it a memorable one.


Nick’s rating: Three and a half stars.

Classification: MA.

Director(s): Jacques Audiard

Release date: 28th Mar 2013

Running time:  120 mins.

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