This seems almost certainly the film that people were keeping an eye on heading into this Cannes Film Festival, but can you blame Jacques Audiard for not being as brilliant as he was with "A Prophet"? Hardly, though there is much of a diverging debate growing on the merits of his latest film, "Rust and Bone". Yes, it is a love story, and it seems that it throws in some sentimentality to the works. The core problem may indeed be that the plot is rather conventional, as many people are accusing the film of. Those hesitations notwithstanding, the grand portion of reviews have been quite positive, if not as ecstatic as Audiard's previous premiere.
Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter): "Audiard’s visual and dramatic approach is glancing, deliberately fragmented, marked by harsh contrasts between bright, bleached-out light and forbidding darkness. Charged emotions are felt and expressed but remain contained and not wallowed in. When Stephanie awakens in the hospital after her accident and realizes what’s happened to her, the dreadfulness of her discovery is palpable. But soon enough it’s absorbed, to the point where she calls Ali to take her on an outing (to the Croisette in Cannes), where he takes her back into the water."
David Jenkins (Little White Lies): "Despite its sensitively handled melodramatic premise and two outstanding central performances (expect to see a lot more of Schoenaerts), Rust & Bone is much duller in impact than Audiard’s previous films, the most recent and notable being A Prophet and The Beat That My Heart Skipped. Manipulative soundtrack choices – the film is bookended by some heart-tugging warbling from falsetto-voiced folk prince Bon Iver – and a sunkissed palette are partly responsible. But it’s the shimmering Katy Perry-tinged (seriously) feelgoodness of the film’s most conspicuously signposted points of cathartism that’s most at odds with Audiard’s typically unromantic brand of Franco realism."
Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood): "The movie is unsentimental--despite a sweet Alexander Desplat score--and while Audiard says he tried to keep the violence to a minimum, he can't help but assault us with blood and flying teeth. These characters are not easy to love. But they are real. And Sony Pictures Classics plans to introduce the film on the fall festival circuit. While Cotillard, who has won the Oscar ("La Vie en Rose"), is in the Academy club, and Schoenaerts broke out in Belgian Oscar nominee "Bullhead," the awards season fate of this movie will depend on how it fares with art house audiences in America."
Drew McWeeny (Hitfix): "There is enormous emotion here, and there is a sequence late in the film that reduced me to a sobbing mess, blindsiding me and landing right where I live, right at the heart of my own fears and insecurities. His surprising choices even extend to his soundtrack. For example, I never expected to hear Katy Perry's "Fireworks" used in a context that would affect me the way it does here. It is a lovely piece of work all around, and if this does not end up near the very top of my list of films I see at this festival, then it will be a truly epic festival. Audiard deserves to once again be applauded for the way he takes melodramatic convention and bends it to his own particular sensibility, delivering a powerful tale about the reminders we all carry of the pains that have formed us."
Guy Lodge (In Contention): "RUST & BONE (B+) Brute sentimentality will put off many, but totally got me. Tender, floridly tactile tableau of hearts broken via bodies. Marion Cotillard predictably excellent in RUST & BONE, but chief takeaway for me is Schoenaerts: strong in BULLHEAD, a real live star here."