Film review: Rust and Bone

Further information

The opinions expressed in Trove are those of individual contributors and not those of the editoral committee or the steering committee (as editorial advisers) or UWA.


Reviewed by Cate Leedman

Edited by Crystal Abidin

Film: Rust and Bone
Director: Jacques Audiard
Running Time: 120 minutes
Year of Release: 2012
Language: French (with English subtitles)


A humanistic tale

Rust and Bone is a striking and intensely humanistic tale that keeps you gasping for air at every unexpected turn. Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a Killer Whale trainer, and Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a security guard and aspiring boxer form an unlikely relationship based on casual sex and candid friendship, after Ali comes to Stephanie’s rescue in a bar fight.

There is a lack of instant chemistry and while driving her home, Ali tells Stephanie it was her fault for dressing like a whore. Despite this insensitive behaviour, it seems to linger as they become closer, Stephanie appears humoured by Ali’s comments. It takes an accident, six months of therapy, and a phone call to bring the two back together, where Ali takes Stephanie on her first trip to the beach since losing both of her legs.

Ali’s disregard of her disability brings Stephanie out of her constant silent suffering, and instigates a slow but steady positive change for the both of them. Schoenaerts’ ability to capture Ali’s brutish demeanor and muscly form help establish his character’s incapacity in forming any meaningful relationship so far, especially with women.

The bookend Bon Iver songs coincide with the initial shots of Ali and his son in dirty clothes, sleeping on sidewalks, and rummaging through trashcans. The realistic desperation is heartbreaking, and makes the audience yearn to uncover their story. Cotillard’s usual on-screen brilliance and magnetism further aid the film’s intention to craft an unknown world with realistic imagery.

As we embark on Stephanie’s slow recovery, we too discover the depths to Ali’s character, and the obstacles they both have to overcome before launching into a more meaningful relationship. Stephanie’s persistence and strength ultimately leads to the formation of their romantic relationship. 

Overall, this is an uplifting film that illustrates how two people from different walks of life can have such an unspoken and trusting connection, the reality of which resonates strongly with viewers. I highly recommend this dysfunctional take on Romeo and Juliet, not only for the exceptional acting, but the beautiful landscape and captivating setting in the south of France.

If you enjoyed Audiard’s previous films, in particular Read My Lips and The Beat That My Heart Skipped, you are bound to enjoy Rust and Bone. It touches on similar intricacies of people dealing with hardship and disability, and how complex relationships are formed between unlikely matches.

Rust and Bone opens 28 March 2013 at Luna Cinemas Leederville.