One way to describe Rust and Bone, a French flick from writer/director Jacques Audiard (2009’s A Prophet), is to go through the emotions one may have as they take-in the tragedic story. The no nonsense 120 minutes shows the reality of rising and falling in life using two vastly different character arcs. And it’s not all roses, folks. And yes, you have to read subtitles.
A still in-his-prime boxer/kick-boxer, Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) is flat-broke and must scrap to make ends meet for he and his 6 year-old son, Sam (Armand Verdue). His sister (Corinne Masiero), who also is just scrapping by, agrees to take them in as long as Ali gets it together. She hooks him up with a security guard gig and he also spends the weekends bouncing at a trendy nightclub. And the latter is where Ali crosses paths with Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), as he breaks up a scuffle between her and some random aggressive guy.
Since Steph is too intoxicated to drive, he brings her home and leaves his number. Steph thinks nothing of it at the time, but when she is the victim of a terrible accident at her job - which transforms her entire life - she reaches out to Ali; who is just starting to resemble a positive contributor to society.
The dynamic of Ali and Steph’s relationship is the heart of this tale. But the surrounding elements that both characters individually delve into are delivered in a haphazard manner.
Having key plot points introduced early on (i.e. Ali’s relationship to his son) are more-or-less forgotten about as the Ali character selfishly enters into an underground fighting career and spends time with Steph. The script never really circles back around to show the affects his choices are having on seemingly one of the main plots (his son), and this leads to a jagged telling at times. When it does actually come around in the 2nd half of the flick, the screenplay just glosses over it, as if it was hastily interjected to bridge the gaps, and therefore, answer the questions the viewer is having in their mind (i.e. How is Ali’s actions affecting Sam?).
Even though sequences referenced in the last paragraph can be bothersome, the acting of both leads keeps one invested in this gloomy story of two people trying to reinvent their stature in life. The positions both characters are put in will have you pondering how resilient and selfish we can be as humans when faced with the rigors of life. There’s also the constant perplexing thought of how people can be brought together and want to push through uneasy situations despite all signs suggesting otherwise. It’s interesting, even though the storytelling is forced together and not as fluid as it could have been; which would have led to a more resonating punch for the viewer.
Overall, Rust and Bone plays similar to a Shakespearean tragedy that is laced with a social commentary about human nature in times of struggle. The mechanics are serviceable despite the script having gaps and rarely filling them in. It also takes the easy way out sometimes with predictable scenarios. Some may also question whether combining the two random storylines was a bit of a stretch. But you can’t argue with the entrancing and gritty acting of the two leads.
Rust and Bone is rated R and opens in the Tampa Bay market on Friday.