Rust and Bone

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Rust and Bone Movie Poster Image
Lyrical and gritty French drama for mature viewers only.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 118 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Hope springs in the direst of places -- such as months after a horrific accident or when a person causes a loved one to lose her job. You might be in the depths, but there's always one sure way to go: up.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Stephanie is a fighter and a survivor in more ways than one. Ali is rougher around the edges, but he does feel a compulsion to do better, even if he doesn't always know how.


Fairly brutal, bloody beatings take place at secret fights where spectators egg the competitors on to hit and cripple one another. Teeth are lost, heads are bashed, bodies are bruised and battered. There's also a scene in which a whale crashes into a stand and, later, attacks its handler; there's blood in the water. Close-ups of wounds, injuries, and gashes. A man screams and grabs his child, and he accidentally hits his forehead on a piece of furniture. A child is shown as if he's drowning. A woman throws glasses at men in bars, cutting their faces. Men leer at her, eye her body openly, and say brazen, disrespectful things to her.


Full-frontal nudity, with a man's genitals and a woman's pubic hair briefly shown. A man's backside is glimpsed often, sometimes while he's straddling a woman. A woman's breasts are shown both from afar and in close-up, sometimes during what appears to be sex. Quick flashes of intercourse (though genitalia aren't seen then).


Relatively infrequent use of words including "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," damn," and "a--hole." The words are said in French and subtitled in English.


Some brands shown, but they're mostly French companies that may not be familiar to American audiences. More recognizable labels seen include Under Armour and Nike.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some cigarette smoking and drinking, sometimes to the point of inebriation.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rust and Bone is an oddly beautiful combination of brutality and beauty that explores some very difficult subjects, including what it's like to lose your limbs, to not know how to be a parent, to be tossing around in a hard scrabble world with a young child you aren't equipped to raise, and how hard it is to tame a beast when the beast is yourself or someone you love very much. There's also full-frontal nudity (albeit briefly), quick flashes of intense sex scenes, swearing (in French with English subtitles), smoking, and drinking. Some fight scenes are bloody and gritty and show faces kicked and beaten to a pulp. But the film also has tons of hope and is made with great care and honesty.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byHeather2480 February 5, 2014

Hauntingly realistic

This is the type of movie that you won't be able to get out of your head for days. This is not your typical mainstream depiction of France. This shows life... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) is beautiful and distant, suffering from an ennui she can't place. She has a job that she loves (taming whales) and a boyfriend she cares about, but she still goes to bars to flirt with men -- though she stops short of sleeping with them. (They don't take it too well.) Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) has just gotten custody of his young son and has brought him to the south of France, where he hopes to start anew. He finds a job as a bouncer and meets Stephanie one night after breaking up a fight between her and a stranger. Sporting a bleeding wound and nursing a hangover, Stephanie is in no condition to drive, so Ali brings her home. So begins a strange friendship that sees the two characters through major highs and lows, including an accident that changes Stephanie's life and, later, Ali's as well.

Is it any good?

Cotillard is quite possibly one of the most soulful actresses on Earth, which makes RUST AND BONE supremely lucky to have her in top billing. As Stephanie, Cotillard is all pain and sorrow and resilience, sometimes in turns, sometimes all at ones. An easy performance it is not. A memorable, award-worthy, honest one? Definitely. There's no artifice at all in Cotillard's arsenal. (There's one particular scene when she sits with her eyes closed on a terrace, eyes closed, ears pricked to music, arms flapping in signal to some imaginary whale, and we are there with her, so invested that we're spent.)

Schoenaerts' Ali makes a formidable other half to Cotillard's Stéphanie; he's bruised and burly and brimming with potential, though he does tend to falter when faced with an option to be noble. He's a good guy who can't quite settle into that role, not yet. Without these two, Rust and Bone would be Hysterics and Rote. Lucky for us, it isn't. And in addition to the performances, the movie also boasts a heart-achingly honest script that isn't afraid to make its two leads broken and human. When they try to put themselves back together again, we want to cheer for them, even though it pains us to see them squander opportunities (especially when it comes to Ali). There's little that's cliched in Rust and Bone, even if people do get what they want and deserve. Their triumphs feel hard-fought, even frail. And so satisfying.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Rust and Bone compares to American romantic dramas. Do Europeans have a different approach to the genre? Are there any commonalities?

  • How does the movie portray the challenges of parenthood? Does it seem realistic? Is Ali a good father? Why or why not?

  • Why do you think Stephanie is drawn to Ali, and vice versa? What do they have in common?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance and foreign films

Character Strengths

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