The plot of Rust and Bone is pure melodrama: a trainer of killer whales (Marion Cottilard) loses her legs in an accident and then begins a relationship with a bare-knuckle-boxing single father (Matthias Schoenaerts). What could be more luridly contrived?
Yet French director Jacques Audiard’s film is shot and acted in such a down-to-earth, naturalistic manner that the story and characters convince you of their emotional truth. Restrained rather than overblown, this is melodrama that isn’t melodramatic.
In other hands, the story could have been mawkish and ridiculous. But Audiard, maker of the riveting The Beat That My Heart Skipped and A Prophet, has fashioned a slow-burning but touching romance.
The acting is terrific, too. Cotillard, an Oscar-winner for her role as Edith Piaf in La vie en rose, is even better here, and the relatively unknown Schoenaerts matches her. Expect Hollywood to come calling soon for him, as it has already done for her.
Released on DVD, Blu-ray & EST by StudioCanal on Monday 25th February.
To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.