Aneesh Chaganty

Rust and Bone | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2012 at 11:33 PM

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Rust and Bone

(2012, France, d. Jaques Audiard)

Having competed for the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Rust and Bone is often met with very positive word-of-mouth. Directed by Jacques Audiard – most known for the crime thrillers The Beat that My Heart Skipped and A Prophet (the latter won Best Foreign Film at the Oscars a few years ago) – Rust and Bone tells the story of two lives crossing paths.

The first is that of Ali (played by Mathias Schoenaerts), an unemployed ex-boxer trying to make money while looking out for his son. The second is Stephanie (played by Marion Cotillard), a marine park employee who, after suffering a horrible accident at work, wakes up in a hospital to find that her legs have been amputated. Her boyfriend (presumably) leaves her and she’s left alone until she befriends Ali, a man completely undeserving of any friendship.

I liked this movie. But I didn’t love it. It sucks when the last 20-25 minutes of a film actually change your opinions on it because that’s what happened with Rust and Bone. Audiard – instead of avoiding melodrama and high emotion – instead chooses to embrace it in this film – redeeming characters through miraculous events thrown into the script for the sake of character redemption. It’s easy to get the ending confused with something great after you’ve watched something very honest for the last hour and half. But let me clear: the third act is anything but great.

Lensed beautifully by Stephane Fontaine, Rust and Bone succeeds most when it’s not trying to make the audience feel anything. The best moments in this film were when the camera finally decided to step back and observe, rather than telling the audience how to feel. But if I had to narrow down the single most redeeming aspect of the film, it would be Cotillard’s performance. Here is someone who truly feels like she’s acting in the moment, discovering in the moment, and breathing in the moment. Nothing feels forced or staged. It comes very naturally to her. The scene in which she, over the course of one poignant shot, discovers that her legs have been amputed jumps to mind. In fact, right now she’s a strong contender in my book to walk away with a Best Actress statue this year.

On the flip side of the coin, Cotillard’s counterpart never really did it for me. It may have come down to the script or even the direction, by Schoenaerts never communicated to me that he deserved to be saved. That he deserved redemption. There is a strong difference between a character no can sympathize with but deserves salvation and one who no one can sympathize who doesn’t. Unfortunately, Mathias Schoenaerts falls into the second category. The film tried to communicate that despite a hard, carnal shell, Ali was someone who was getting better. Who just needed more opportunities than the rest of us to get better. But I didn’t feel that. To me, this was someone without remorse and without consideration – even for his own child. And that turned me off.

That said, I did appreciate the film’s earnest effort to paint a very difficult picture. There were scenes in the film that perfectly captured what I think was its intention. Those moments were honest and overwhelmingly powerful. I could barely breathe when Stephanie walked out of the car, staring Ali straight into the eyes as his face was pummeled in by another boxer. Unfortunately, these moments didn’t come as often as I would like.

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