VIFF 2012 Review: Rust And Bone (De Rouille et D’os)

Rust And Bone is a French film that’s not your typical artsy type of movie you’d associate with the term ‘French film’. Instead it’s an offbeat romance between two unlikely people. It has to be the year’s most unlikely romance story.

Ali is a Belgian man who’s had it rough. A young father of a five year-old boy names Sam, he’s dirt poor and often looks for food or steals it. He dreams of being a mixed martial arts fighter but has to earn a living as a security guard or bouncer and make whatever extra money he can from outdoor fringe fighting. He travels with Sam to Antibes, France living with his sister in hopes of a better life.

Stephanie is a killer whale trainer at the French resort town. She appears to have things better for her as her job is more stable and pays well but something is missing in her life. The fact that she goes to night clubs scantily dressed shows she’s missing something.

Ali and Stephanie first meet by accident. A brawl starts at the night club Ali is a bouncer at and Stephanie is hurt with a bloody nose. Ali offers to take her home and look after her for a short while. They trade phone numbers but they soon return to their regular lives. The next day Stephanie returns to her job at the oceanarium. The show seems business as usual until one of the orcas flies in and smashes the wooden office leaving Stephanie injured and bleeding. The wounds were so bad, both her legs were amputated.

Ali had all but ignored Stephanie until he received a call from her. They spend time together including times when he takes her swimming at the beach. During the time, she learns to get her self-confidence back. She’s able to swim, to stand and walk with prosthetics and even return to her job at the oceanarium.

Even though Ali helped her through it all, he is the one struggling. He has problems financially and still does his fighting outside. He has difficulties juggling his security work with his fighting. Sometimes he spends less time around Sam than he should. He constantly spends time with Stephanie and even has sex with her but still engages with women frequently even in front of Stephanie.

There would eventually have to be some message to send him to turn his life around but nothing does. Stephanie is tired of spending all this time with Ali despite his unwillingness to have a relationship. During his work as a security guard, he discovers people stealing from the store his sister works at. One of them is his sister and she gets fired. The sister throws him out of the house and it’s just up for him and Sam all alone. Things don’t change for him until a near-tragedy happens. It leads to changes for both but an ending that ended rather flat.

It’s hard to pinpoint what the actual theme of the movie is. If I could determine a theme, it would be about love turning your life around. I think the most unique thing about this film is that it makes a very good effort in creating a romance in the most unlikely of circumstances. A romance between a woman who just lost her legs and a man who is pursuing bloodsports doesn’t come across as your typical romance fair but the film was successful in achieving it. Part of it had to do with the screenplay co-written by director Jacques Audiard with Thomas Bidegain and in directing. It was most well-written to present a very real situation and real sets of events. Also part of the success of it was the acting from Marion Cotillard. She has one of her best acting performances in years. Her ability to act out the part very well and give depth to her character also adds to the film. Matthias Schoenarts didn’t give as stellar a performance as Ali but he did a good job for himself. Also a standout effort is the score from Alexandre Desplat. He keeps on churning out scores that fit movies well and he does it here again. Another standout effort of the film is the use of Katy Parry’s song Firework. The song is first used as part of the orca show but later becomes Stephanie’s personal anthem of self-recovery. Stephanie’s a firework.

Rust And Bone has already received good acclaim at film festivals. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film festival. It also won the Golden Swan for Best Film at the Cabourg Romantic Film Festival. It has made the circuit for many Canadian film festivals including Toronto. It’s expected to be released in North American theatres on Novermber 23rd in limited release.

Rust And Bone is not your typical romantic movie but it’s a very deep story about people with deep emotions that were meant to be together. Despite its imperfections and lack of spectacle, it’s still worth seeing. You’d be surprised how good it is.


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