MON ROI (France/TBC/130mins)
Directed by Maïwenn. Starring Emmanuelle Berco, Vincent Cassel, Louis Garrel, Ludovic Berthillot, Camille Cottin, Félix Bossuet.
THE PLOT:
As Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot) recovers from a skiing knee injury, she reflects on her life – a therapist tells her a knee injury is symbolic since the knee is a joint that only beds backwards. Through flashback, we learn of her relationship with the enigmatic cad Georgio (Vincent Cassel), which goes from flirtatious to serious, to dangerous in quick succession.
THE VERDICT: Emmanuelle Bercot returns to Cannes for the second time in a week – she directed the opening film STANDING TALL – as lead actress in this often funny drama about emotional abuse within a seemingly perfect relationship.
Bercot plays Tony as a woman we know; we have met her, we are friends with her, or we have been her. Tony is so blinded by Georgio’s charm and her love for him (or should that be dependence on him?) that she willingly puts up with abusive and manipulative behaviour from him. Bercot is strong in the role, and treads the line between victim and survivor well. Vincent Cassel turns on the charm as Georgio, making the character seem playful, charming and fun; making it easy to see why Tony fell for him. Cassel also swings between charming and emotionally abusive, and often turns between the two quickly. The two are strong on screen together; their banter and arguments alike feeling honest, intimate and real. The rest of the cast is made up of Louis Garrel, Ludovic Berthillot, Camille Cottin and Félix Bossuet.
Etienne Comar and Maïwenn’s screenplay feels honest in its portrayal of an abusive relationship, with Tony often driven to the edge of despair, but always returning for more. Whether this is addiction, dependence or simple blindness is never explained, but Tony’s reaction to a therapist’s claim that she is carrying suffering crystallises her thoughts, spurring her reflection over her life, and new friendships. The build up of emotional abuse is carefully written, with Cassel spouting such arrogance as ‘Defying me, are you?’ before riling Bercot into a frenzy then making out she’s the dangerous one.
As director, Maïwenn has a strong handle on the relationship between Tony and Georgio, but she does allow the film to dwell on the good times, before rattling through the good times. This means the pacing of the film is something of a mess and, although it is enjoyable to spend time with the couple when things are good – including the most hipster French wedding ever – the audience is often left to wonder where the film is going, if anywhere at all.
In all, MON ROI is an interesting look at the nature of abuse, and how much someone put up with before they realise the situation they’re in is toxic. The trouble is that the film is badly paced and, although Cassel and Bercot are great together, this means the film often feels drawn out and slow.
Rating: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Cannes Review - Mon Roi
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.0Honest but slow
  • filmbuff2011

    The up/down nature of love/hate is the subject of Mon Roi, a probing French film which is bracingly honest about the erratic nature of modern love.

    Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot) is recovering from a skiing accident at a rehabilitation centre. With her leg in traction, she makes a slow but gradual recovery towards walking again. During this downtime, she reflects on the tumultuous relationship she had with Georgio (Vincent Cassel). The story flashes back 10 years to their first real encounter in a nightclub, having briefly met each other a few years back. Tony makes a move on Georgio and there’s an instant spark between them. They experience the first flush of physical attraction and love, moving in together, getting married and having a child. As Tony’s pre-and-post baby blues set in, Georgio wants time apart from her, as her increasingly erratic behaviour threatens to imbalance the whole relationship. But Georgio is equally to blame, given his lack of full commitment to the marriage and his flirtations with other women. This relationship seems doomed…

    Directed by Maiwenn, who memorably featured in brilliantly gory horror Switchblade Romance and also directed the gut-wrenching policier Polisse, the key to the film is in its title. Mon Roi, or My King, is a reference to an early scene in which Georgio calls himself the king of jerks. He later becomes Tony’s king, but he wears a tarnished crown. Love is great when it works, but when it doesn’t work Georgio doesn’t want any of it. As troubles set into the marriage, he says he can’t live with Tony 24/7. Isn’t that what love is though? The ups, the downs, the joy, the heartbreaks and the difficult times forged together by two people? Tony has her own take, saying that she doesn’t want to be in love if it means being hurt. In a sense, both of these characters are naive and unaware of the true nature of a relationship, even if they’re middle-aged.

    It’s a powerful commentary from Maiwenn and her co-writer Etienne Comar about the personal battleground of an ultimately mismatched couple as they go through the various stages of a relationship. Maiwenn captures the raw infatuation and the physical heat of love, much like in another French film, the stunning Blue Is The Warmest Colour. But she also captures the melodrama of fights over child custody without coming across as soapy. Bercot and Cassel give committed, fully engaging performances which drive the film forward to a point at which it seems the relationship might actually be turning back into itself. Mon Roi is classy French filmmaking with standout performances. It leaves much to discuss about the nature of choosing the right partner afterwards. ****