for the director who last gave us the godfather ii within prison walls (with 2009’s critically-lauded a prophet), expectations for a follow-up could be forgiven for being stupidly high and improbably-achievable. still, it’s surprising that jacques audiard’s rust and bone (de rouille et d’os, now screening), is able to defy its sentimental premise and deliver the uncompromisingly frank, necessarily gritty drama it does.
billed as the film’s lead, marion cotillard’s stéphanie really shares equal, if not more screentime with brutish alain [mattias schoenaerts], a security guard/trainer with a partiality to bareknucle fighting and a less-than-stellar record as a separated father of one. when stephanie, a whale trainer, loses both her legs on the job in a horrifically stylised accident, she recalls an earlier encounter with alain, legged, in a nightclub, whom she turns to for companionship, a little sex, but mostly utter lack of bullshit and pity.
far from being the intouchables without the LOLs, however, audiard dials in the heartstring-tugging to focus on his troubled leading duo; his unmissably obvious parallels between damaged bodies and damaged minds helped to a pass by a couple of excellent leading performances that almost challenge you to cry, to empathise, or to feel in any conventional way, then to ask how dare you think you were in for a soft-focussed lifetime movie of the week — to its credit.
rust and bone is unrelenting at parts, heartstoppingly caustic at others, particularly the snow-set climax. it treads difficult emotional territory. but it’s also the kind of film that’s grown on me, not insignificantly, since seeing it months and months ago.