|Starring||Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure, Céline Sallette, Corinne Masiero, Bouli Lanners|
|Release||23 NOV (US) 2 NOV (UK) Certificate 15|
Rust & Bone might look like the kind of over-earnest disability drama that was built from the ground up with a spare shelf for a Palme d'Or, but it's not half as worthy as its fern-laden posters and Bon Iver soundtrack suggests. That's partly down to two fiercely powerful performances from Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, but mostly due to Audiard's screenplay, which is full of complex characters who don't much care for arcs or catharsis. At no point are we ever asked to judge Alain's choice to beat the shit out of people for a living; Stéphanie's injuries are horrific but Audiard doesn't expect us to pity her. Both actors are both called on to draw from deep wells of pain, but they share a phosphorescent chemistry; the first time Cotillard smiles, she lights up the screen.
Audiard, it seems, is also something of visual genius. There are moments here of such savage beauty, they catch in the throat: a raw tooth, spinning on the deck; the white sun sparkling off the surface of the ocean (as a topless Marion Cotillard swims within); fists smashing through ice as seen from the murky waters beneath. The scene in which Cotillard returns to the scene of her accident is a sequence of such elegance and awe, the thought of it will have you tearing up for weeks afterwards. It is one of many silent shots that say more than words ever could; it's no coincidence that when Audiard's characters speak, they do not have to say much.
That's where Cotillard and Schoenaerts show their strengths: astonishing depths of character, conveyed by a touch or a look. Theirs is an unconventional love story – one that tries its darndest to convince itself it's something different – but Rust & Bone is achingly romantic in ways that only the French know how. Equal parts brutal and beautiful, don't expect its award shelf to stay empty for long.