De Rouille et D’os [2012]

Directed by: Jacques Audiard
Written by: Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain. Story by Craig Davidson.
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure, Céline Sallette

Jacques Audiard is an incredible talent that I’m glad to be discovering. His Un Prophète was one of the most important films of 2010. He’s back with De Rouille et D’os, a stunning adaptation of Craig Davidson’s short stories.

The French filmmaker has an audacious vision and voice, and a style that places the visual at the top of his priorities, without ever losing sight of the emotional. His work behind the camera is not always the most appealing to the senses, but certainly proves very powerful at creating an emotional response.

De Rouille et D’os, or as it’s known in English-speaking countries, Rust and Bone, is a deeply affecting story about the bond between two different people, paralyzed in different ways.

Stephanie’s (Marion Cotillard) predicament is very much physical. An incident at work results in the amputation of both her legs. Ali’s (Matthias Schoenaerts) savage, careless ways keep him trapped in a miserable life of theft, meaningless sex and alienated loved ones. Her release comes when she’s in the water (the same place where she lost her ability to walk) and his only really happens when his face is being beaten to a pulp.

Audiard and co-writer Thomas Bidegain make us genuinely care for these people even when, like in Ali’s case, we might feel they deserve the things that happen to them. Their harrowing tales could’ve very easily descended into melodrama in less capable hands.

Matthias Schoenaerts turns in a fantastic lead performance; this man deserves fame and recognition. Marion Cotillard, one of my favorite actresses, redeems herself after her atrocious Dark Knight Rises death scene (sorry for the spoiler, single person in the world who hasn’t seen it). This is her best performance since her Academy Award-winning Édith Piaf in La Môme. Anything less than an Oscar nomination would be a disgrace. In short, this is the finest film I’ve laid eyes on so far this year.