Directed by Jacques Audiard, Rust and Bone is a film about an unlikely friendship between two damaged individuals who find solace with one another which in turn allows for two rather different healing processes to begin. Whilst this idea is sound and commonly used in story telling, in Rust and Bone it often is far to predictable and forced with the two stories often felling out of place and rarely adding to one another.
Rust and Bone opens with Ali, a vagrant man who is travelling with his son to move in with his sister and is shown to be living of stolen goods and what they can find as leftovers on trains. Ali appears to be simply drifting through life with no purpose or direction and upon moving in with his sister is able to get a job as a bouncer and whilst at work meets Stephanie. Stephanie is an attractive whale trainer who shortly after meeting Ali is in an accident that leaves her in a wheelchair, depressed and alone. For obvious reasons she is unable to continue her work and some time after her accident calls Ali after the brief chance meting they had. Problematically little time is spent developing the initial circumstances of Ali or Stephanie beyond the above which is where issues in the film begin to arise. Whilst we are provided sufficient reasons for Stephanie to call Ali (she is alone, unhappy and seemingly has no one to turn to) we are never given any reason for why Ali would have any interest in this woman, beyond physical attraction or potentially his hinted at loneliness. However as Ali is shown to care little for those around him to the point of being abusive to his own child the beginnings of Ali and Stephanie’s relationship ultimately comes across as forced.
Despite this the narrative of Stephanie healing both physically and emotionally provides for compelling an engrossing story and the development of Stephanie throughout fells true to what we know of the character. This is helped in small degree by the simply exceptional performance by Marion Cotillard that was snubbed at the Oscars. Likewise Matthias Schoenaerts as Ali provides for an equally strong performance though whilst Ali's journey does lead to what many will no doubt consider a satisfying conclusion the manner in which it gets their does not fell like a natural progression for the character. As a result much like the start of Stephanie and Ali's relationship the character arc for Ali is somewhat forced and largely unsatisfying.
This leaves Rust and Bone with two conflicting stories or at least two stories that don't weave together in a compelling or additive manner. Thankfully the performances of both leads and the support cast is superb throughout which makes even the less then stellar moments engaging and helps give the film an enough emotional punch that empathy for both leads is achieved despite the stories short comings.
Their is a lot to like in Jacques Audiard Rust and Bone, despite this the film often fells forced, far to predictable and left me with the sense that both stories could have been better serviced had they had more time to develop. Despite this Rust and Bone has enough emotional punch carried largely by the strength of the two leads performances to come recommended.