Star Rating: 3.5/5
- Jacques Audiard – Read My Lips, The Beat That My Heart Skipped, A Prophet
- Marion Cotillard – Midnight In Paris, Contagion, The Dark Knight Rises, Macbeth
- Matthias Schoenaerts – Black Book, Bullhead, The Drop
- Armand Verdure
- Corinne Masiero – In The Beginning, Louis Wimmer, Miserere
- Bouli Lanners – Eldorado, Nothing To Declare, Astérix and Obélix: God Save Britannia
- Alexandre Desplat – Harry Potter VII(i) & (ii), The King’s Speech, The Ides of March, Rust and Bone, Zero Dark Thirty
In August 2012, London held the Paralympics event. More than anything, the paralympians illustrated that people with crippling injuries can be full of life and can excel in the face of much adversity. Yet, the tournament did not display the hardships that such people face on a daily basis. Rust and Bone does so, and in a particularly gritty and unglamorous way.
Rust and Bone is a French film based on the book by Craig Davidson with the same title. The movie centres round Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts), a man of dubious morality, who is seemingly in sole custody of his young son, Sam (Armand Verdure). As Alain is unemployed, he leaves Belgium to go to live with his sister, Anna (Corinne Masiero), in the Antibes, where he hopes to find work. Using his skills as a former bare-fist boxer, he gets a job as a bouncer at a nightclub.
There, Alain meets a drunken Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a killer-whale stunt trainer. After she falls over and cuts herself badly outside the club, he takes her home. Yet, it is not until Stephanie loses both her legs when a stunt goes horribly wrong that she and him form a close relationship.
Rust and Bone is a 120-minute unhurried, art-house film with a very serious atmosphere. Much of the movie is played out in under-privileged dismal areas, akin to those in Harry Brown. The aesthetics, as well as the silence (with the exception of the loud and brash Katy Perry song, Firework, for the Killer Whale stunts) emphasise the severity of the movie’s tone.
The stark manner of Rust and Bone is reflected in the generally unpleasant characters in the film. Due to a lack of action or intrigue in the plot, the movie relies heavily on the characters, and the relationships that they have with one another, to maintain viewers’ interests. This is not an issue, per se, but as none of the characters are particularly amiable, it is hard for one to truly empathise with their situations.
Alain, for one, is a scummy and untrustworthy individual, with a violent side as well. Indeed, if it were not for his (almost) wonderful treatment toward Stephanie after her injury, Alain would have no redemptive qualities and would be utterly detestable. Despite the nature of Alain’s character, though, credit must go Matthias Schoenaerts. It would have been easy for Schoenaerts to turn Alain into a stereotypical thug. Yet, Schoenaerts doesn’t do this. Rather, he makes Alain unlikeable, but at the same time human, realistic and understandable, which is far from a simple task.
Similarly, Marion Cotillard does a good job as Stephanie, an ordinary girl coming to terms with a crippling injury. Cotillard’s performance in the wheel-chair leaves out nothing, including the struggle of doing something as mundane as making a coffee or going to the bathroom. Cotillard truly makes viewers sympathise with Stephanie’s predicament. Furthermore, and arguably what makes Rust and Bone so unique is that director Jacques Ardiard is not scared to have Stephanie discuss (and perform) sex or swimming in the sea. By doing these, and making Stephanie feel better for it, Audiard demonstrates that Stephanie, and anyone else with a crippling injury for that matter, is a human being. It is a tribute to Cotillard’s skills that she is able to illustrate Stephanie’s feelings so naturally, and without it seeming odd either.
Unlike with Schoenaerts and Cotillard, it is hard to overly praise or fault the rest of the cast for their performances. Since the film is dominated by Alain and Stephanie, and how their relationship develops, Armand Verdure, Corinne Masiero and Bouli Lanners (who plays as Martial, Alain’s friend and part-mentor, who is also a gambler of unofficial violent sports among the underclasses) are not given much time on screen. What little we see of them shows us, plausibly, that they are normal people with problems, facing the issues that normal people face, while living in a terrible area.
Over-all, Rust and Bone is a slow-paced and sombre film, but an impressive one in its own right. The movie may not be shot in aesthetically pleasing places, and it may not contain particularly nice characters either. Nevertheless, the film does not do what the authorities of the London 2012 Paralympic games did, and shy away from tackling the harsh realities that arise from crippling injuries. Marion Cotillard’s Stefanie embodies how difficult it can be for people with such injuries to pick themselves up. What’s more, Cotillard’s performance emphasises that a little support from even the most improbable of individuals can help to steer an injured person onto the path of becoming more comfortable with their new and forced lifestyle.