It is a basic axiom of cinema that kids and animals are to be dealt with kindly if a character wants to hold onto an audience's sympathy.
In "Rust and Bone," Matthias Schoenaerts plays a man whose emotional awakening comes only after he has shown himself to be a disinterested single father, often seeing his young son as a burden when he isn't forgetting him entirely. During a scene where he is working as a late-night security guard, Schoenaerts' character even roughly kicks a dog. And yet he still wins back audiences by creating a sense of empathetic understanding for a character who could easily sink into despicability.
Directed by Jacques Audiard, based on short stories by Craig Davidson, "Rust and Bone" plays as a contemporary update of a classic melodrama, intertwining an unlikely romance, self-discovery and a sharp consideration of the financial realities of modern life. Schoenaerts' rough character knows how to use his body but not his brain or his heart, and he learns to look beyond himself through the injured woman he comes to fall for, played by Marion Cotillard.
In this clip from Schoenaerts' recent appearance as part of the Envelope Screening Series, the Belgian-born actor talks about what initially drew him to the role, as well as how more conventional notions of likeability didn't enter into his conception of the character, his interest being more in exploring the emotional truth of the man and the reality of his situation.