Screening at the 2016 Alliance Française French Film Festival. For festival tickets and session details visit the official website HERE.
The fourth feature-length picture for French director MaÃ¯wenn (Polisse), Mon Roi tells the story of a lawyer enraptured by her on-and-off husband and lover Georgio (Vincent Cassel). Emmanuelle Bercot plays Marie-Antoinette, known as ‘Tony’ to her friends, a lively and personable woman who falls hard for Georgio upon re-introducing herself to him at a club.
A remarkably consuming film, MaÃ¯wenn’s great directorial skills allow the audience to be as much charmed by Georgio as Tony is. Those who have experienced psychological abuse in relationships may pick up on the warning signs in the film earlier, such as, why is Georgio wanting Tony medicated for normal mood swings? Before anyone realises, Tony is pregnant and trapped in the relationship, but does she even want out?
Central to the story of Mon Roi is the idea of what love lends to those who participate in it. It’s not happiness, though it is pleasurable. As the English translation of ‘Mon Roi’, ‘My King’, tells us, love is like worship. And like worship, it can make peasants out of us. Tony, a Lawyer with passions of her own, puts her hand through glass without a second thought during an angry outburst at Georgio. Is it possible, that two people so in love, are only toxic when together? Bercot plays Tony with just the right amount of delicacy so that while we pity her, we are also enraged at her self-sabotage. It is a well-deserved Cannes win for Bercot.
Though nominated, Cassel missed out on a Cannes win for best actor, and not through any fault in his performance. Cassel is so lauded an actor that turning in a solid performance is to be expected. European actors have always had an advantage when it comes to fluid movement and style, which is a good foundation for playing characters we wish we could hate. Able to charm his way out of breaking dinnerware in a fancy restaurant, Georgio can crack jokes even when debt collectors come to call. It is this characteristic that perhaps Tony is seeking, the ability to laugh at life and to be privy to moments where it is turned into entertainment. To be involved with men like Georgio, to have his baby, this just raises the stakes and makes it all the more exciting.
Structurally, the film is perfect, showing flashbacks to the beginning of Tony and Georgio’s relationship while she is recovering from a knee-injury in the present. Like much of modern French cinema though, the focus on melodrama makes it ripe for only arthouse film channel and festival syndication. Considering the class of performances and story, with just a little tweaking, perhaps with the cinematography, the film could have soared so much higher. One can only hope MaÃ¯wenn has such a grand vision for her directorial career.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10