When we’re first introduced to Tony, the protagonist in French filmmaker Maiwenn’s latest picture, Mon Roi, she is undertaking rehabilitation for her knee. And whilst the damage occurred, during a skiing accident, is a contrived means of metaphorically coming to terms with her unstable emotional situation, it lays the foundations for this moving romantic drama. Although following the archetypal formula of the coming together of two lovers, where this film triumphs is within the foreboding element that exists, as by seeing Tony in such distress in the present day, it alludes to the fact that her romance comes without a particularly happy ending.
We head back in time to when Tony, played with a stunning conviction by Emmanuelle Bercot, first meets Georgio (Vincent Cassel). After spending the night together, it doesn’t take long before they embark on an intense journey together, with marriage not so soon after, and a child swiftly following that. However as time progresses so does their dynamic, and Georgio becomes engulfed back in the life of an unhinged ex-girlfriend, vying to be by her side after a failed suicide attempt. With this getting in the way of their relationship, Tony struggles to leave her husband, and despite knowing it to be the best plan of action, his manipulative, persuasive ways get the better of her.
An intimate, candid, and somewhat intense connection is forged between Tony and the viewer; enhanced given we see her at her most vulnerable, when in rehab, physically struggling to bath herself, without any sense of dignity as she breaks down. It’s these incapabilities which endear us to her even more too, instantly crafting her as something of a victim; ensuring she remains on the back front from the offset. The investment we have with Tony would be devalued had it not been for the breathtaking performance by Bercot, rightly awarded for her efforts at Cannes last year, where she shared the best actress accolade with Rooney Mara for her indelible turn in Carol. She is matched at every turn by Cassel too, with a performance not many actors would be equipped to undertake, as you have to believe and understand why Tony struggles to leave Georgio, despite his tyrannical ways – and you do. He’s vindictive but charismatic in equal measure – and not many actors would be able to pull that off.
Maiween structures this tale in an accomplished, seamless manner too, as we drift so freely between the past and present day. In that regard there are shades to Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine – and any such comparisons made to this modern classic can only ever be a good thing.