Mon Roi reaction: Cannes 2015

Vincent Cassel brings his usual fiery screen presence to Mon Roi. Here’s Jordan Farley’s reaction from the Cannes Film Festival…

Love is complicated in Maïwenn’s Mon Roi (My King), a histrionic relationship drama that chronicles the true romance of an incompatible couple over ten tumultuous years.

Emmanuelle Bercot (director of festival opener Standing Tall) stars as Tony, an effervescent thirtysomething lawyer who falls for Vincent Cassel’s charismatic restaurateur Georgio. Truly, madly, deeply in love and high on each other’s company the pair soon decide to have a child, but the stresses of pregnancy – coupled with Georgio’s own demons, including a suicidal ex – start to drive the two apart. All this is revealed in flashback as Tony goes through rehabilitation for a serious knee injury caused by a skiing accident, giving her ample time to reflect and repair.

Switchblade Romance star Maïwenn made a splash with festival entry Polisse in 2011, and here she continues to demonstrate that her strength lies in drawing great performances out of her cast. Georgio is unfiltered Cassel – cool, passionate, damaged and frequently very funny. He’s a philanderer, an addict and not to be trusted, but Maïwenn and co-writer Etienne Comar don’t paint Georgio as a cut and dry bad guy; he never stops loving and caring for Tony and their child. You understand exactly why Tony keeps boomeranging back.

It’s equally understandable why Georgio can’t let Tony go. Mon Roi is a film that adds little to the doomed marriage sub-genre, but it’s refreshing to have a story told from a woman’s perspective. Tony is smart, spirited, beautiful (in spite of her own hang ups about her body) and forgiving to a fault. We don’t see much of Tony doing her day job as a criminal lawyer, but it’s telling that she defends Georgio in the same way that she might defend a client. It’s left to Tony’s perceptive younger brother Solal (a dryly comic Louis Garrel) to call Georgio for what he is – bad news. Bercot has the tougher job of the two leads, swinging from sweet, wide-eyed romantic during the early days of their whirlwind romance to a sullen shadow of her former self with effortless conviction.

This emotional journey plays out in reverse during Tony’s physical rehabilitation in a coastal facility, where she befriends a group of boisterous yoofs. It’s a subplot that’s entirely unnecessary – a heavy-handed way to visualise Tony’s psychological recovery, often interrupting the flow of the primary narrative when it’s least wanted, and leaving the runtime at a bloated 128 minutes. The film would be better without it.

Solid, if far from spectacular, Mon Roi is an engaging melodrama and in Georgio’s “King Jerk” boasts a quintessential Cassel performance.

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