This is my review of Rust and Bone [DVD].
"Rust and bone" apparently refers to the taste sensed by a fighter after being punched in the mouth. It reflects the violent prizefights which form a thread running through this French film based on a short story by a Canadian author, Craig Davidson.
At the outset we see Ali, a hard up drifter with appealing small son in tow, trying to find work in the South of France. Employed as a bouncer, he extricates from a brawl Stephanie, an attractive young woman who intrigues him with her unusual job as a trainer of killer whales. Both share a love of physical pursuits and a desire to take risks and court danger.
Without introducing to many spoilers, this film is about the course of their relationship, underlying which is an exploration of how we may learn to cope with terrible adversity, yet also reassess our values and develop the ability to express our emotions after some major trauma. With some painful and moving moments, the film is never sentimental or mawkish.
Ali's strengths are linked to his weaknesses. He is a fearless risk-taker but often inconsiderate and negligent. He is easygoing, non-judgemental, free of prejudice, capable of acts of great kindness, but is often selfish, not seeming to care about others, not thinking through the consequences of his actions.
The drama is set against the background of poor working class people, often immigrants, struggling to make a living on the margins of society and the law, a subject which preoccupies the director Jacques Audiard judging by his earlier films e.g. "The Prophet" and "The Beat my Heart Skipped," both serious, moral yet also marked by an extreme violence which one senses must fascinate or excite the Director. I was at times made to feel a voyeur watching some intimate scenes, although I do not think this was the Director's intention.
The acting of all the main players is expressive and convincing, the filming skilful and realistic. My four stars recognise the quality of the piece, although I cannot say I enjoyed it.