My King


Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

My King
"If you ever threw safety to the wind and sailed deeply into the love that could be your undoing, you will be able to identify with what Maïwenn and her brilliant actors are exploring."

When someone tells you, "I'm not a jerk, I'm the king of jerks," it might be worth giving that statement serious consideration, especially when made in jest. Vincent Cassel, ever more charming, sinister, and unpredictable as Georgio, morphs before your eyes on screen. And that says a lot when you remember him as Jean-François Richet's shape-shifting Jacques Mesrine or the wild Otto Gross in David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method. Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot, who directed Standing Tall, also screening in this year's New York Rendez-Vous), an independent, educated, attractive woman, falls utterly and completely in love with him.

We get to see ten years of their relationship - including marriage, child and divorce - in retrospective flashbacks after Tony's skiing accident that results in a ligament tear. Two parallel strands of storytelling - one forward showing Tony's painful progress at a seaside physical therapy facility and one backwards, recounting the couple's eventful life together, cleverly take us into and out of emotional entanglements.

Bercot and Cassel give spectacular performances in their portrayal of what has become a rarity in movies - a couple truly enjoying each other's company and allowing us in on the fun. During the early days of courtship, and numerous times in-between, they have the lighthearted bond of Myrna Loy and William Powell until suspicions cloud the skies as they did for Joan Fontaine when she realised some unwanted things about Cary Grant's Johnny.

Maïwenn closes in on the throbbing tortures we tend to remember. Is the wedding ring made from salami a harmless quirk? His mood alters, his secrecy deepens, the times when the worst case scenario comes true reoccur; Tony knows that the phrase, in good times and bad times, is something that can be felt, not merely as promise but as disaster.

It is the amount of fun that makes us fear its end, together with Tony's brother Solal (Louis Garrel) and his girlfriend Babeth (Isild Le Besco, the director's sister), who know that what they see is too good to be true. Georgio, who owns a restaurant, a lovely apartment and a killer sense of humor, cannot be trusted and yet My King, co-written with Etienne Comar, charms us into wanting to see more of his shenanigans.

Georgio takes Tony to a pharmacy and, as a children's book monarch would do with his treasure chamber, tells her to take her pick. "Everything is yours," is very funny when you take it to mean a toothbrush or a band-aid, less so when it includes Xanax and Prozac and who knows what other prescription drugs he regularly picks up there. Slowly, islands of future pain emerge. He used to date models. Now he prefers her to "a whole harem of models." One of his exes, Agnès (Chrystèle Saint Louis Augustin), attempts suicide in reaction to their bliss and he decides to take care of her during the recovery.

If you ever threw safety to the wind and sailed deeply into the love that could be your undoing, you will be able to identify with what Maïwenn and her brilliant actors are exploring. Simbad, the baby, and his dare-devil father, shall impose restless adventure on the world around them. "We'll only have the good times together," is a motto that does not really work for a couple. "You leave people for the same reason that attracted you to them," is worth a second thought, but the film makes it very clear that it is a glance, a mouth, a hand, a chemical reaction, that can convince us to have our happiness nestled so close to the abyss.

Maïwenn's Polisse, co-written by Emmanuelle Bercot and winner of the Jury Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, superbly juggled a large number of characters working in the Paris Child Protection Unit and their cases. My King works in waves. We are pulled under and spat out to reflect for ourselves about the human heartbreak we witness. What more can you want from cinema?

Reviewed on: 01 Mar 2016
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An injured woman in a rehabilitation centre recalls an all encompassing love.
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Richard Mowe **

Director: Maïwenn

Writer: Etienne Comar, Maïwenn

Starring: Vincent Cassel, Emmanuelle Bercot, Louis Garrel, Isild Le Besco, Chrystèle Saint Louis Augustin

Year: 2015

Runtime: 130 minutes

Country: France

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