Film Review: Rust and Bone

Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone is compelling thanks to great performances from its leads and a narrative that engages the viewer.

Ali goes to live with his sister, taking his young son along with him. Working as a bouncer, Ali meets Stephanie at the night club after he breaks up a fight. Trying to cope with a life-changing event, Stephanie turns to Ali for friendship…

Rust and Bone succeeds in maintaining the audience’s interest by taking its time to establish the characters and the turn of events. Viewers should attempt to go into the film with as little knowledge of the plot as possible for maximum enjoyment. This way, what occurs is unexpected and even surprising.

From the outset, it is hard to predict the direction the film will take. Director Audiard takes his time in establishing scenarios. Even in the very beginning it is unclear why Ali and his son are making the journey. Rust and Bone‘s narrative unfolds at a natural pace, allowing the relationship between Ali and Stephanie to develop in an authentic manner.

What is great about the protagonists is that they both appear three dimensional. Ali’s consideration for Stephanie is contrasted with apparent carelessness for his son. Similarly, the viewer’s first impression of Stephanie belies her more complex and endearing character. Matthias Schoenaerts is entirely convincing as Ali. Marion Cotillard meanwhile offers a very impressive performance as Stephanie. It is a challenging role, but Cotillard’s strong performance is compelling.

There are some shots in Rust and Bone which feel like style for style’s sake. A few of these could have been omitted or trimmed. Shots in the water however do add something to the film. The score also works well.

Rust and Bone deserves the acclaim that it has received. Not a perfect film, but a very well executed one nonetheless.