Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

Rust and Bone

First seen at Cannes in 2012 (where I wept twice), one of my top films of the year finally gets a release in New Zealand.

French director Jacques Audiard has said that after spending months inside making his (superb) prison film A Prophet, he wanted to work outside on the next project. And so the charismatic leads in his latest bleak, intense character study find themselves in the South of France – but here a much greyer and more “real-life” Antibes and Cannes than the sunshiney glamour of the festival town (where Rust and Bone made its debut last year).

Two broken people find one another and scratch out a tentative relationship while negotiating some of the biggest challenges life can throw up. Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) is naturally luminous, even without make-up or hope, as Stephanie, an orca trainer at Sea World whose world is rocked by tragedy. She encounters the straightforward, guileless Ali, recently arrived in town with young son in tow, but having apparently lost the luggage containing his self-awareness and social skills. Ali (Belgian up-and-comer Matthias Schoenaerts) tries to make ends meet between a security job and bare-knuckle fighting, and the pair are slowly drawn into a partnership that caters to both of their emotional and physical needs.

All the actors are superb, their characters’ predicaments deeply real, and while the themes are not subtle – one character is broken emotionally, the other physically, then we watch as slowly the tables turn – Audiard has shamelessly crafted a sensational film through the extravagant use of image and music to portray pain and relief.

The film has been described as “unabashedly melodramatic”, but this is what makes it so compelling – few films leave you reeling with such powerful feeling as you leave the cinema.

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