Review: RUST AND BONE (DE ROUILLE ET D'OS) (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 10 December 2012



Inspired by Canadian writer Craig Davidson's short story collection, Jacques Audiard's RUST AND BONE is an absorbing, if overly melodramatic drama about two people who are damaged both physically and emotionally. This French-language drama gained a lot of attention when it was nominated for this year's coveted Palme d'Or (which was subsequently won by Michael Haneke's AMOUR).

The movie begins with Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), who has left Belgium for Antibes on the coast of France and brought along his 5-year-old son Sam (Armand Verdure) as well. He's dead broke and desperately in need for a fresh start after learning his ex has been using him as part of drug-smuggling scheme. He cares about his son a lot, but he's not a very good and particularly responsible father either. He is awfully short-tempered person, and likes to have casual sex with random strangers. He ends up staying at his sister, Anna's (Corinne Masiero) place even though she doesn't like his presence around. Ali used to be a professional kickboxer, in which his physically powerful skill is enough to land him a job as a bouncer at an upscale nightclub.

One night at his work, he meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) when he has to break up a fight between her and a guy. She ends up with a nosebleed, and Ali is kind enough to drive her home. En route, he finds her sexually attractive and even dare to tell her she's dressed like a whore. After reaching at Stephanie's home, Ali requests for ice to soothe his swollen knuckle. He subsequently leaves her his card in case of emergency when she gets into an argument with her overly jealous boyfriend.

The following day, Stephanie goes to work as usual where she trains a group of performing whales at Marineland. It's supposed to be a routine act but somehow she gets unlucky when things goes horribly wrong. Next thing she knows, she awakens in a hospital to discover both of her legs have been amputated. Looking depressed and totally worn out, she slowly adjusts to her new circumstances physically. However she remains emotionally useless until one day, she gives Ali a call. He shows up, and ends up taking her to the beach and willing to help her without much fuss. From there onwards, they become instant friends and slowly becomes on-and-off sexual lovers.

Jacques Audiard's direction is quite compelling. His choice of visual and dramatic approach is certainly unconventional, especially the way how he frame his shot in a deliberately fragmented manner. Working with cinematographer Stephane Fontaine, he knows well how to play around with striking contrast between the bright and dark lighting schemes to mesmerizing effect. The screenplay, co-written by Audiard himself alongside with Thomas Bidegain, is appropriately raw and gritty. But it's quite a shame that most of the storytelling method favors over predictable, yet conventional melodrama. It's like as if Audiard is attempting too hard to please both arthouse and mainstream viewers, but some of the combined approach doesn't work well together. No doubt the movie tends to be uneven and patchy in places.

Luckily the cast is good enough to draw the viewer's attention. Matthias Schoenaerts' blunt performance as the socially irresponsible person fits him well for the role. But Marion Cotillard is a startling revelation. Once again, she's a magnetic presence it's simply hard to ignore her. The scene where she first discovers both of her legs have been amputated is genuinely heartfelt (especially with its frighteningly realistic, yet seamless special effects) and another scene where she and Ali first having sex together. The sex scene may have been unpleasant to look at (she has no legs, go figure) but somehow that scene is poignant without being exploitative.

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