I think the last time I enjoyed a romantic film as much as this one was the 1993 True Romance written by Quentin Tarantino starring Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette. It was all Tarantino blood and gore with a strong romantic narrative and a happy ending.
Rust and Bone (De rouille et d’os) left me sleepless. With True Romance, this must be my favourite love story. I went to a preview on Wednesday night, and couldn’t fall asleep till the early hours of the morning for thinking of the film. It is brutal and hard to watch in some places but it takes you on a powerful journey of transforming characters.
Set in the south of France – which we usually associate with holidays for the rich and the Cannes International Film Festival – it tells the story of Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Stephanie (Marion Cotillard).
Alain has come to live with his sister. He has no money, likes to box and fight, fuck (sorry, there is no other appropriate word to describe the sex) girls, and really has no idea how to parent the five-year old son he brought along to live with his sister. His sister works as a cashier and brings home expired foodstuffs for them to eat. It’s real life along the Cote d’Azure seldom reflected.
Stephanie trains killer whales, has a horrible life-changing accident, and early on in the film is restricted to her flat and falls into a deep depression.
But the inarticulate Alain in his unsentimental straightforward way takes her out swimming, to restaurants and eventually offers to sleep with her – never any foreplay. A relationship between the fighter and the killer whale trainer slowly evolves and it is the deepening of their friendship and his awakening to her needs that makes this film so good.
Alain is a working class bloke. There is no reason to like him. But director Jacques Audiard skilfully gets you invested in his nuanced characters.
Watch it. Did I say it is very very good?