Romantic but pitiless, fearlessly emotional as well as edgy, Rust and Bone is a powerhouse. Its the kind of risky venture only a consummate filmmaker could manage, and then only with the help of actors who are daring and accomplished.
With director Jacques Audiard in charge and Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts as stars, all the pieces have fallen exactly into place.
Although Rust and Bone is old-fashioned and sentimental at its core, this films idea of romance is not everyones, and its certainly not Jane Austens.
The story details the relationship between an arrogant trainer of orcas whose world is shattered when she loses her legs and a brutish street fighter whose thoughts are exclusively about himself.
Its set in a bleak and violent contemporary France where we worry about the protagonists physical and psychological well-being because we know we have to.
Audiard, whose last film was the exceptional, Oscar-nominated A Prophet, has always been interested in extreme situations and the people who make their way in them. This time, hes created an unapologetically melodramatic film (inspired in part by Lon Chaney/Tod Browning silents such as The Unknown) whose aim, he said frankly at the films Cannes premiere, was to look emotions in the eye and take them to the end, even to risk going too far and being excessive and ridiculous.
But if Rust and Bone is an unashamed melodrama, it is melodrama executed by a film artist with a gift for the genre.