De Rouille et d’Os (Rust and Bone) (2012)

After wowing audiences with the hard-hitting prison drama Un Prophète a few years ago, Jacques Audiard is back with a follow-up that’s no less dramatic but filled with a lot of love.

Based on a couple of short stories from the collection Rust and Bone, by author Craig Davidson, De Rouille et d’Os takes us on a journey of reawakening as a struggling single father (Matthias Schoenaerts) and a young whale trainer (Marion Cotillard) are brought together by a life-changing incident.

Since Cotillard won the Oscar in 2007 for La Môme she has gone on to gain worldwide recognition in English-language films such as Public Enemies, Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, and has made few appearances in films in her mother tongue, so we were excited to see her back on more comfortable ground in a film lead by Audiard.

A couple of weeks ago De Rouille et d’Os won Best Film at the 56th BFI London Film Festival and it’s not hard to see why. Audiard has realised a beautiful film, and the performances by the actors are superb. We don’t know whether it’s because of her circumstances that we ultimately invested in her character, and the love story, but Cotillard’s understated but effective portrayal deserves praise. Additionally, relative newcomer Schoenaerts seems in no way unsettled by the résumé of his co-star and is equally compelling as the caring yet masculine Ali.

Together, and apart, they battle their way through life in a way that’s, for the most part, believable, uncontrived and refreshing.

We walked out of the cinema wanting to watch it again.