(Original Title: De Rouille Et D’Os)
Anyone who has watched A Prophet is very aware of what Jacques Audiard can succeed. But no matter how big of a Marion Cotillard fan one is, there is no way that he could ever have predicted the sincerity, skill and power that the actress would put in the role of Stéphanie. Her pain is immense, but she keeps it to herself. Her will to live is lost, but she doesn’t scream about it. We never get to fully know her, but strangely this is what brings us close to her. Marion Cotillard gives Rust And Bone the performance of a lifetime, both painful and exhilarating, depressing and optimistic, silent and powerful. Writer-director Jacques Audiard gives his stars a huge and free space to move, keeps his story incredibly real, hits his audience in their stomachs repeatedly and then comes back to make a subtle joke, lighten up the mood, before he finishes with a matter-of-fact but as positive — considering the circumstances — ending as he could.
Two stories become one here. A woman loses both her legs after a severe accident during a day’s work as a whale trainer and a young single father struggles to survive and raise his 5-year-old so, while living at his sister’s. When the two meet, there is no spark. But when they’re in need, true love is born. Alain and Stéphanie’s relationship is an oddly romantic one. In the way that a ruined building looks beautiful and in the way that misery and pain when it’s shared, can bring companionship and warmth. Sex is arranged, feelings are never discussed and kissing on the lips is prohibited. He is simple, she is angry. He accepts and moves on, she questions why. They are very different, but also complete each other at a time that is crucial.
The script sign Craig Davidson, Thomas Bidegain and the director Jacques Audiard. It’s fuss-free, clever, to-the-point, realistic and truthful. The dialogue limits itself to what is absolutely necessary, very rarely do conversations take place and all characters are given just the right depth in order to relate to them, follow and understand them, but never fully get to know. They are real but also a bit of a mystery. What happened before them, we do not know, we’re merely following them during a very tough phase in their lives, a transition, a trauma, an end and also a beginning. Their lack of background doesn’t interfere with their development, we know them now and understand them as they are. We don’t question, and they don’t seem willing to answer anyway.
Matthias Schoenaerts is so convincing in the role of Alain, that one wonders whether he is just as simple and one-sided in real life as well. What you see is what you get, there is very little hiding and even the little emotion that Stéphanie manages to bring out in him, only comes near the end and after he’s gotten close to losing everything. Schoenaerts carries this seemingly trouble-free role brilliantly, makes it appear effortless, and this is usually the best evidence of a great actor and extremely challenging role. About Marion Cotillard I’m not going to say much, only because her performance needs to be witnessed and experienced by everyone individually and words are taking away a bit of the magic that this actress is. Stunning, unbelievably talented, versatile and with a great eye for memorable films and characters, Cotillard has reached that point where she makes the film.
Rust and Bone is worth watching for a number of different reasons, including Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts’ incredible performances, Jacques Audiard’s creative direction and Stéphane Fontaine’s extraordinary cinematography. But above everything, it’s a film worth seeing for the humbleness it evokes. The realisations that it forces upon its audience. The faith in reality it shows and the sincere optimism that it’s kind enough to offer us.