I’m not the biggest fan of sprinting back to my keyboard when a film is done to hammer out my thoughts during a festival – both for better and for worse. Sometimes it’s best to let something stay with you for a few hours…to break it down to its very chemical make up and try to understand it from formula.

At TIFF 2012, that “sometimes” arrived early in the form of Jacques Audiard’s RUST AND BONE (DE ROUILLE ET D’OS).

Audiard, who last rocked TIFF in 2009 with UN PROPHÈTE, returns with this film of two broken people. Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a single father with nothing: no job, no money, no direction. When we meet him and his son, he has come to stay with his sister while he tries to make ends meet. He lands a job as a bouncer and meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard). She’s an Orca trainer at a Sea World-esque attraction. In the film’s opening act, she gets in a terrifying accident, resulting in the amputation of both her legs at the knee.

As a whole, RUST AND BONE didn’t rock me…but there were so many things about it that I loved, that it feels like a win anyway.

Front and centre is Marion Cotillard, who can convey so very much by just sitting and looking to the horizon. Her anger, sadness and confusion in the immediate moments after her accident are incredible. Going forward, we watch her work through so many emotions as gets a grip on what her life is about now, and nail every one of them. It might well be her best performance since LA VIE EN ROSE.

Watching over her is the direction by Audiard (Sidenote: I’m very new to the man’s work, knowing only his previous effort). His visuals are sometimes bleary sun-soaked moments of hope…and sometimes chilling doses of hard cold truth. The way he watches over Ali and Stephanie is unobtrusive, allowing them to be together and come to their own understanding of what it is they have together, rather than paint it with melodrama and cliché.

Those are the best details about the film, and the ones I’m holding tightest to at the moment. There are some bits of plot structure I’m unsure of, and certain characters that keep me likewise puzzled. At the moment they are holding me back from falling deeply in love with this film, and ultimately what might keep us as “just friends”.

Even if that’s the case, the movie brought so many moments and images that are instantly iconic. They came in both spectacular and subtle varieties, and make the film an achievement in their own right. RUST AND BONE will likely be discussed quite a bit as the year carries on, and I for one hope that Marion Cotillard’s name gets bantered about at the end of the year when we start discussing 2012’s best performances. Hopefully by then, I’ll be ready to analyze it as a whole.

RUST AND BONE has finished it’s TIFF 2012 engagement. The film has a limited North American opening scheduled for November 16th (official website)