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This Is Northern New South Wales


My plan this week was to follow the hype-trail, a swathe of recommendations and requests gravitating me towards Danny Boyle’s latest flick, Trance, and as a great fan of many of the director’s creations (Shallow Grave, 127 Hours, Trainspotting – although I must draw the line at The Beach), it is definitely on the hitlist.

But the presentation of options saw my heart calling instead to Rust & Bone, a minimal-budget, Palm d’Or-nominated French film – no big names, no big budgets – celluloid simplicity.

Ali is a struggling single father, self-absorbed through survival instinct, on the wrong side of the tracks. An ex-professional fighter, he holds a tenuous grasp on a handful of night security and bouncer jobs. As doorman at a local nightclub, he enters a chance meeting, coming to the rescue of the darkly alluring Stephanie.


It seems that their one night of conversational connection and number swapping is an isolated happening. But when Stephanie loses both legs in a tragic work accident, she is inexplicably drawn to reconnect with the unconventionally nurturing ruffian.

Ali’s non-judgmental honesty is the perfect catalyst for Stephanie’s acceptance of her disability and her self-conscious return to society.

French cinema has a beautiful rawness – a realism so overlooked by much of the world and totally disregarded by the Hollywood mainstream – and Rust & Bone exquisitely encapsulates this.

The few dramatic events that do occur are nothing so far removed from reality as to disconnect the viewer, evoking incredible empathy for all characters, including Ali’s five-year-old son Sam.

Where the storyline meanders through a relatively simple storyline, the emotional subtext throws you into a polarity of directions; to the fragile, tragically disfigured Stephanie, the innocent Sam and the aggressive, seemingly emotionless Ali.

Viewing a film is far more multi-dimensional than we first think. We can stuff popcorn into our gaping maw and have visuals spoon-fed to us, we can be plunged into fear, have our hearts broken and rebuilt, emerge from the theatre’s womb-like darkness, reborn into a new perspective on life.

Rust & Bone is an exquisite reflection of social stigma and the retention of the self under duress, a breathtaking portrait of reality as only French cinema can create.

There is an ever-growing phenomenon in cinema that I like to call ‘The Avatar Effect’. To explain: James Cameron’s Avatar had the makings of a good film – award-winning director, big-name actors, a good storyline and a budget larger than the average GNP of Belgium. But, for all its incredible visuals and outstanding CGI, Avatar – for want of a better word – sucked as a complete film. Script, screenplay, acting, plot – all fell victim to the singular focus of graphics and spectacular scenes.

Rust & Bone is the absolute antithesis, its absolute simplicity radiating, conveying emotion and connection through the purity of the performances, incredible juxtaposition of characters and visuals, outstanding cinematography.

Before you recoil at the mention of subtitles and the image of avant-garde experimentalism in an auditorium of beret-wearing hipsters peering through a mist of Gauloise smoke, let me assure you that Rust & Bone is not of this ilk.


In essence, it is a simple love story born of misfortune. Easy to grasp, beautiful to watch, it is a very ‘accessible’ movie. Avoid if you are looking for the high drama, action or comedic stereotypes of the mainstream, but if you’re in the mood for something alternative, something that plays to the heart and mind rather than the eyes and adrenal gland, I strongly recommend Rust & Bone.

Advisory: a few fight scenes and some not-too-graphic rude bits – nothing too shocking, but not for the young or easily offended.




Review by: Tommy Leitch – | courtesy of Palace Cinemas. Byron Bay