Review: Rust and Bone

Un Prophet was a great film, a sweeping, brutal, transcendent prison drama that marked out its director as a major European filmmaker. But, even having seen it twice, I have no real idea what it is about.

It strikes me that Jacque Audiard is a director who likes to load up his film with oblique, mysterious references just to make sure that nobody mistakes them for ordinary.

Rust and Bone presents us with a beauty and the brute tale; the story of a relationship between a whale trainer (Marion Cotillard) and a low life single dad who works in security but has a sideline as a bare-knuckle brawler (Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts).

The brute doesn't appear to be much use to anyone but his brusque ways turn out to be of use when Cotillard suffers a severe life changing accident.

I guess it is called Rust and Bone because the Whale Trainer and the Bare-Knuckle Brawler would just sound too silly. It doesn't shy away from melodrama but done with a severity and bleak intensity to make audiences believe in the reality of the situation. It is like Michael Haneke directing an episode of The Bold and The Beautiful - The Raw and the Ridiculous, perhaps.

Audiard is an extraordinary gifted filmmaker with an eye for the telling detail. A long truck journey is conveyed with a single shot of the canvas at the back flapping in the wind – it's very simple but it communicates so much more than a lead character is making a long journey. It also joins the growing list of recent films that have employed Katy Perry's Firework, but Audiard's use of it gives it a fierce, wrenching poignancy. And as someone who had never quite understood what it was about Cotillard that makes every top rank Hollywood director turn to melted M&Ms in her hand, she really has never been better than she is here.

So all in all a marvellous film yet one that is, for me at least, strangely uninvolving; a cheap melodrama that has been chaperoned away to the exclusive, cordoned off, VIP area.

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Directed by Jacque Audiard

Starring Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdue, Celine Sallette, Bouli Lanners and Jean Michel Correia

Length: 120 mins