Maïwenn’s ‘Mon Roi’: Can’t live with, can’t live without. (review)

Mon Roi affiche

The coming weeks several of this year’s Cannes Film Festival prize winners are hitting our screens. Next week ‘The Lobster’ (Prix du jury) & ‘Son of Saul’ (Grand Prix) will be released and this week it’s up to ‘Mon Roi’ to convince us if the best actress prize was deserved or not.

‘Mon Roi’ (the film has no international title yet,) is the 4th film by Maïwenn (Le Besco). For years she was known as the girlfriend/wife of Luc Besson. The fact that they had a child when she was hardly 17 years old was spread out over many a tabloid. After her child acting years and break-up with Besson she turned away from acting for some time before returning with a vengeance in the director’s chair. As her last 2 films were part of the main selection of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival -which in both cases won a prize- she has made quite a name for herself (in recent years she usually drops her last name Le Besco).

Her three previous films feature a protagonist using (or hiding behind?) a camera. A documentary camera for the semi-autobiographical ‘Pardonnez-moi’ (2006) (Forgive Me) and ‘Le bal des actrices’ (2009) (All About Actresses), a photo camera for ‘Polisse’ (2011) (Prix du jury).
No hiding in this film though, emotions  are running amok. The film starts with a skiing accident of the main character Tony (short for Marie-Antoinette) played by Emmanuelle Bercot. It’s not exactly clear if it really was an accident or a form of deliberate self harming. A bit in the vein of the famous opening scene of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ where it’s not exactly clear if the main charater had an accident or was committing suicide.

After this opening the movie switches between flashbacks of the meeting and falling in love of Tony and Georgio ( a truly fantastic Vincent Cassel) and scenes of Tony in a rehabilitation center, where her knee injury is being treated. We see Tony being knocked of her socks by the extreme charm and sharp wit of Georgio. There’s a nice scene were Georgio is getting rid of Tony’s sexual insecurity, caused by an insulting remark of a former boyfriend towards the end of a previous relationship, in no time with a few casual funny comments.

The film’s beginning suggests that the good times won’t go on forever. At certain stages of the film a former girlfriend shows up, gradually showing the destructive influence Georgio has on women. Whatever happens -being caught in bed with another woman, drug use, financial difficulties- Georgio always charms his way out of it. When Tony does react it’s usually in front of their friends through extreme emotional outbursts which only seems to lead to more sympathy towards Georgio. And even though she knows their relationship is not healthy she somehow cannot get herself to truly leave Georgio. No wonder ‘Rien ne sert de courir’ (‘No use in running away’) happened to be the working title.

Juxtaposing the rise and fall of a relationship with the physical rehabilitation is slowly but truly suggesting the physical injuries sustained are a desperate cry-out caused by the emotional stress of the marriage. Will Tony ever be able to once and for all get out from under the spell of Georgio?

Emmanuelle Bercot had quite the festival, she directed to opening film ‘La tête haute’ (Standing Tall) and won the best acting prize. It would have been nice if she could have shared it with Cassel as he perhaps delivers the finest performance of his career to date. The way he keeps his character remain charming despite his often despicable actions make the unlikely indecision of the Tony character all the more believable. Only the scenes featuring Tony as a lawyer do not have enough credibility.

Jan Bollen

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