One of the pleasures of Rust and Bone is that it just begins.

We're plopped into the story of Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) and his young son. They're broke and trying to find food. Later we meet Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) at a club where Ali bounces. She's been in a fight but it's not clear whether she's the attacker or the attacked. Ali gives her a ride home, and this strange melodrama takes off.

Rust and Bone is relatively predictable—for example, the moment we learn Stéphanie trains Orcas, we keep waiting for her to be horribly injured, and she is. But then there's everything else: This is a boxing movie, a chronicle of blue collar struggles, a romance, a father-son tale and a redemption story, all rolled into one.

Each thread could be its own movie, but director/co-writer Jacques Audiard takes each piece and combines them into a whole that works despite the conflicting natures of its disparate parts and its surprisingly sentimental ending. Whether you enjoy Rust and Bone depends on your tolerance of narrative peccadilloes, but it's never boring.

One thing is certain: You can't take your eyes off it.

Rust and Bone plays Friday night, Dec. 7, as part of the SFFF.

The Screen, NR, 120 min.