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Mon Roi (My King in English), the new romantic drama from French director Maiwenn, highlights key differences between foreign films of the genre, particularly French ones, and their American counterparts. While many U.S movies of this ilk tend to gloss over realism in their depiction of a whirlwind romance, works such as Mon Roi keep their foot more steadily in the realm of the possible. The latter, as a result, are more recognisable, thus one finds it easier to relate to its central characters.
The film stars Emmanuelle Bercot (winner of the Best Actress award at Cannes 2015 for her role) as Tony, a female lawyer in therapy following a skiing accident. She is questioned by a therapist as to whether her fall was a mistake or intentional. The story then flashes back in time to Tony’s destructive relationship with the charismatic but reckless bohemian restaurant owner Georgio (played by the ever great Vincent Cassel). Mon Roi cuts between present and past, giving the audience glimpses of her recuperation, as well as her romance with Georgio.
Mon Roi benefits from being slightly grittier than many U.S romantic dramas. A character like Georgio, in a more mainstream release, would be rich yet never seen at work. However, here there are scenes in which he and his wife discuss his business meetings, tax issues and their incomes, while his job plays a key role in the drama. Similarly, Mon Roi doesn’t avoid the genre trait of featuring quirky supporting characters. That said, the figures that fulfil this trope have more depth than one would expect. For instance, Georgio’s ex-girlfriend (Camille Cottin), a type of character who would be portrayed as an over-the-top “bunny boiler” in a weaker film, suffers horrendously from depression. Also, Tony’s brother (Louis Garrel, The Dreamers – excellent), as well adding a layer of comedy, harbours a serious distain for Georgio and his treatment of Tony. As Maiwenn fleshes out her supporting characters, they begin to feel less like simple stereotypes. They become more three dimensional and add a sense of realism to the movie.
It’s also a credit to Maiwenn that despite her dealings with real-world issues such as alcoholism, drug abuse, destructive relationships and depression, Mon Roi is always energetic, funny and filled to brim with passion. Cassel and Bercot share palpable chemistry and despite both their characters’ flaws, particularly the former, one enjoys spending time in their company. Although, there is melancholia within the film, it never threatens to overwhelm its vivid depiction of its central romance.
Occasionally, the film leans slightly to broadly into drama and comedy trappings. For instance, an outdoor lunch scene in which Tony gets outrageously drunk, revealing her personal woes to Georgio’s guests, feels jarringly over-the-top in regards to the subtlety of the film up until that point and after. In contrast, a moment in which Georgio pretends to be a waiter at restaurant (not his) for the amusement of his family is irksomely quirky. However, these brief events within Mon Roi are only minor detractions from a smart and engaging take on a tired genre.
Mon Roi, thanks to brilliant performances by Emmanuel Bercot, Vincent Cassel and Louis Garrel, as well as strong work from Maiwenn behind the camera, is a passionate, energetic, funny and at times, gritty addition to the romance genre.
Mon Roi is in selected cinemas from Friday 27th May. Check out the trailer below.
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