Rust and Bone (2012) is a gritty, romantic drama about a struggling father, Ali, who moves to the south of France to live with his sister. Here he meets Stephanie, portrayed with blinding sensuality and emotional intelligence by Marion Cotillard, a name known by few and appreciated by fewer beyond the realm of film. It isn’t until Stephanie is involved in a tragic accident that the two grow closer, with Ali’s candid, no nonsense attitude towards life and their relationship carefully reprising her from a terminal depression.
The engaging and coherent storyline rises above general conventions, with a distinct tenacity, offering new intensity to the romance drama genre. The film most certainly strays from the customary conventions of romance. Alas, there are no wedding bells, no illustrious ride off into the sunset. There is no certainty regarding the basis of attraction between the characters, something that often defines a romantic film be it comedy or mutual interest. Rust and Bone is unlike any other, a film with less of a dreamlike synopsis and more tense spectacles that emulate reality. The drama genre outweighs the romantics with heavy hitting events and the rather aberrant nature of a ‘happy ending’.
When asked to think about romantic dramas, the plot is, more often than not, an obstacle that keeps two lovers apart such as a family disapproval, forbidden love or psychological restraints. Jacques Audiard, director of Rust and Bone takes an alternative path, where the obstacle that the characters must overcome, gradually draws them together as opposed to tearing them apart. It is this kind of deviation from exemplary conventions that makes this film both a compelling and dynamic watch. While you might expect a heartbreak in a romance film, Rust and Bone provides little of the sort. Instead you get the emotional turmoil of a sudden disability and the depths of depression that follow.
Audiard paints a vibrant picture of love as a powerful tool for healing, contradictory to your Hollywood blockbuster, which although proves ‘love conquers all’ in the end, has it’s characters face the discomfort and inevitable misery suffered without it’s presence. Vivid and believable characters in addition to the unconventional plot make the film what it is, remarkable.
Ali and Stephanie hardly have a traditional romance. Forget Romeo and Juliet. Unlike Hollywood romance, the drama is heavy allowing plenty of room for the desirable character developments. It’s fair to say the pair have a heartwarming relationship, but the story allows the director to embellish the character’s intelligence and growth throughout the film. Ali begins as a somewhat heartless person with little care for anyone but himself, shown through the subtle neglect of his son, Sam. The story and the relationship focuses less on love and passion and more on the character’s strengths and weaknesses as they fluctuate throughout the film.
Audiard directs a turbulent relationship in which he neatly avoids the melodramatic, making this is a film truly reflective of life itself.