The Tenderness of Rust And Bone

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Carol Bowditch checked out Rust and Bone, a harrowing tale about overcoming major adversity and the trials of real, modern relationships. 

Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) is self-sufficient and has a new woman to fulfill his needs every night of the week. However, his carefree outlook shifts when he finds that the estranged mother of his son has been using the boy for drug smuggling. So father and son hit the road, and Ali gains newfound responsibility, he is out of his depth as a homeless caretaker of a five-year-old boy who, in blood, is his, but he feels uncomfortable as a father to him.

The pair soon find refuge in Ali’s sister’s garage somewhere in the south of France, where opportunities are bright, there is a new range of women and the weather is smashing.

Ali takes a job as a security guard at a nightclub, his previous experience as a boxer clinches the deal with the club owner. His first night on the job finds him pummeling a trouble-seeking punter and bloodying up his hands. This brings him in contact with a drunken, aloof and remarkably alluring Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) who is clubbing alone and being heckled. He winds up at her house and leaves his number, but his jeans remain zipped as her boyfriend lurks with jealously around their apartment.

Time passes and Ali forgets the unattainable Stephanie until she appears in a news report. A performance at Marineworld (where Stephanie trained orca whales) ended in tragedy, causing both of her legs to be removed, leaving her confined to a wheelchair. Shattered and alone, Stephanie contacts and the pair become friends. Ali is unpitying to Stephanie’s physical loss, this cheers her up and gives her a new, more positive outlook on life. He sees that she has opportunity to do as she pleases, and he is there to provide any assistance that she desires, including swimming and casual sex. He does remain stubborn, and stuck in his selfish ways, but her presence around him makes for an edgy, modern day love story, with all of the real, normal faults that come with a relationship.

The most powerful scenes are when the physical elements of Rust and Bone come into the picture. Ali takes part in illegal street fights for money, the viewer sees two grown men fight practically to death in order to gain a lump sum from the primal beasts that take bets and egg the fighters on. It’s really quite harrowing to watch, with emphasis placed on sounds and slow-motion, tight frames of blood and bruising as captured by the director, Jacques Audiard. 

Meanwhile Stephanie, who is both tender and beautiful to watch, is fitted with robotic legs that aid her in gaining more freedom to take care of herself. They give an added toughness to her character, especially in the scene were her metallic ankles peep from underneath her jeans as she leaves the refuge of her car and watches Ali fight from a close proximity, this being a circumstance that usually banishes women. 

This not a normal romantic drama. It was refreshing to see this kind of tensity; the feelings of jealousy and forgiveness were real and relatable in a story that had such a lot of tragedy coming from potentially real life situations. The performances by both Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts are powerful and convincing, as they fight and fuck, and with all of the pain that they suffer, it is truly a fantastic film. 

Words by Carol Bowditch.