Director Maïwenn proves the fragility of liberated and moneyed romance by throwing it against a wall and letting it bleed. Georgio (Vincent Cassel) is Tony’s (Emmanuelle Bercot) love-thrill addicted ‘King’ whose crown bounces precariously atop his mop of curls. Tony put the crown there because she is in love with him: she’s addicted to his charm and his energy, and it is destroying her.
Mon Roi is a searing account of infidelity and aching disappointment. Tony has allowed herself to fall in love with and marry the kind of man that is best kept as a lover. It clearly chimed with a modern-relationship truth at Cannes earlier this year: Bercot won the award for best actress.
The narrative is told from Tony’s point of view, through a succession of memories recalled from a rehabilitation centre. There’s nothing like breaking your leg on a glamorous ski-slope and winding up on a grueling exercise program in basic accommodation to make you look back at the past with measured perspective. And so the film unfolds: memories of a euphoric and tempestuous relationship, cut with the very visible metaphor of Tony’s brokenness, and her physical and emotional resurrection. It’s glamour then grit and back to glamour again, equally realistic and affecting.
Georgio and Tony meet dancing in a nightclub. He’s rich, flamboyant and adores her, accepting her and releasing her from her personal insecurities. We are in no doubt that he genuinely loves her. However, Georgio is deeply flawed. He’s a hedonist: he loves parties and he loves women. Cassel delivers Georgio with the energy of a freight train missing a qualified driver. His life’s on speed and he likes it that way, and he will defend his decisions to the end.
Tony needs to feel safe and Bercot reveals this with luminous and intelligent fragility. What is interesting about Mon Roi, is that in an age of the liberated woman, who is widely believed to be ‘more together’ than a man, Maïwenn encourages Bercot to perform Tony as someone who is not in control, more emotionally subservient to her ‘King’. She is providing a somewhat old-fashioned yet paradoxically fresh portrait of modern love.
Maïwenn guides us to draw our own conclusions from this paradox, by stepping outside Tony’s malaise, like a therapist, and questioning the function of their relationship. If Maïwenn were to ever make a sequel, I’d like her to take their complicated relationship one step further. To show us how Tony and Georgio could learn to be together, yet explore their own paths, too; so Tony could find her freedom, experimenting with a balance of indifference and passion with a man who will never change.
Director: Maïwenn (2014)