Rust and Bone is a triumph in it’s performances but a slug in it’s narrative. Marion Cotillard (Inception, La vie en rose) and Matthias Schoenaerts give Oscar-worthy performances. The film sets up an interesting premise with engaging characters, but lingers on it’s second act for too long and grows dull.
Rust and Bone tells the story of Stephanie (Cotillard), a women who loses her legs in a tragic accident, and Alain (Schoenaerts), a single father down on his luck trying to support and care for his son. Alain is an ex-boxer who starts to re-enter the fight scene as a backyard street fighter as Stephanie struggles to readjust to her new way of life. The film follows the two as they grow together and adapt to the circumstances life has dealt them.
The film is executed in a very raw and intimate fashion. Handheld shots put us next to the characters, into the scene, walking beside them and watching every moment unfold. This is where the film throws up it’s first red flag. The pace of this film is so deliberate that interest begins to wane. The filmmakers play out every moment in such grueling, meticulous detail that the emotion and sentiment is completely sucked from the scene. There isn’t anything unique about the execution of this film either. We’ve seen this visual style in much better films such as The Wrestler, Biutiful, or Blue Valentine.
Director Jacques Audiard’s previous film “A Prophet (Un Prophete)” is a film I love, so my expectations were very high going into Rust and Bone. The two films almost feel like they were made by a different filmmaker. A Prophet was tense and engaging. Everything felt necessary and contributed to the building of the world within the frame. However, with Rust and Bone, I felt very much the opposite. Entire scenes felt redundant or just completely unnecessary.
The huge saves for this film are the performances. Cotillard and Schoenaerts are both stunning to watch. They ground the film in a way the writing fails to. Whatever honesty and genuine heart the film fails to bring through the screenplay, both actors offer up.
Although the second act is a drag, the first and third act are almost entirely successful. The first act does well to establish characters that we would like to follow throughout the film, but the end feels completely unearned. As I felt the film coming to a close, everything began to feel tacked on. Its as if they knew nothing interesting had happened for the whole body of the film and needed to compensate by raising the tension with random plot points. That being said, the climax was successful in raising the tension and piquing my interest after a lazy second act, but it was not enough to redeem the film as a whole.
If you are interested in becoming an actor, I’m sure watching this film could be a masterclass. If you are looking for engaging cinema, look elsewhere.