There is a creeping sense of familiarity when watching Mon Roi, a drama that examines the complexity of the relationship between a husband and wife over ten years. Luckily though, Mon Roi never feels like ten years to watch, and in detailing the ups and downs of a modern marriage, it demands attention throughout. You can always depend on Vincent Cassel for a terrific performance and Mon Roi may just be one of his best yet, even to those with extraordinarily high expectations of the actor.
Mon Roi tells the story of the turbulent relationship of Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot) and Georgio (Vincent Cassel), as Tony reminisces on the high and lows of her marriage while recuperating at a physiotherapy facility with a broken leg. The pair meet (in flashbacks) after Tony has already freed herself from one previous marriage, and Georgio’s charm and charisma win her over easily. Much to her brother’s vocal disapproval, Tony and Georgio fall madly in love, marry and have a child together. While in the present, Tony makes slow progress in getting her leg working again, she looks back at what went wrong in her marriage and reflects on the love she may still feel for Georgio.
Mon Roi means My King and it is an apt title for this story of one woman’s inability to move on from the problematic love of her life. Tony can be a frustrating character for not being able to see Georgio for what he truly is, and for constantly ending up back in his bed, even after it is clear he is an arch manipulator. The strength of Mon Roi lies in making Tony sympathetic throughout, even if she does make some poor decisions. Her love for Georgio is unquestionable and to writer and director Maiwenn’s credit, it is almost completely convincing that Tony would keep coming back for more from Georgio.
Vincent Cassel’s perfect performance is fearless in its deconstruction of this character. Cassel excels at the beginning of the film, showing exactly why Tony would fall in love with Georgio. He is funny, successful and devoted to Tony; that is until one of his exes slits her wrists and cracks start to develop in their relationship. Cracks become fissures and soon, with a baby on the way, the compatibility of these once joyful lovers is called seriously into question.
Cutting back and forth between the past and present makes Mon Roi a well-paced and involving drama at just over two hours in length. The scenes of Tony having physical therapy are quick and concise, until later in the film when she develops some friendships with the other patients with leg injuries. Director Maiwenn flits through the relationship; it’s like having a peek inside Tony’s memories as she attempts to heal her leg and her heart. Watching these characters grow, and more worryingly, repeat their same previous mistakes again and again is never a chore. The concern for the child growing up between them is felt more keenly as the film progresses, especially as it becomes clearer just how calculating and cold Georgio can be. It’s impressive that Cassel manages to keep his character from being utterly and irreparably infuriating.
The flawed characters make Mon Roi very convincing. This is a relationship plucked straight from the real world and by the conclusion, Maiwenn's story has a brief but potent tug at the heart strings. In a final scene of the film, her direction, the cinematography and Emmanuelle Bercot’s terrific performance culminate in a heart wrenching moment of clarity. The message is clear; you cannot choose who you fall in love with, though life could be so much simpler if only there was an off-switch for these feelings. It’s not an outstanding film but it packs an emotional punch without resorting to tragedy.
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